Updated: May 24
What I wish I knew from a young age and what I wish others knew
by River (they/them)
Autistic people may not want to communicate by use of speech or may be unable. This can be due to being in shutdown, being in an overwhelming situation or just being unable to speak, so they may want to learn other methods of communication
What I wish others knew and what I wish I knew:
Until recently, I never knew how to handle communication in non verbal ways and without eye contact. Growing up, I never knew how to handle those times where I was unable to communicate verbally or I wanted to not communicate verbally through shutdown, an overwhelming situation or any other reason. I want allistic (non-autistic) people to learn that it’s not rude for an autistic person not to speak when they are unable to communicate verbally or unwilling to. I have had many experiences where people haven’t been prepared for me not communicating in a verbal method, or just don’t know that autistic people have times where they are unable to. It just made me feel very alienated and frustrated, as people did not have the proper knowledge to deal with nonverbal communication – both in education and my family. I would have liked to have been taught that it’s okay to just not talk sometimes and use another communication method like sign language, which I am currently learning.
People should be educated about autistic people and their different communication in more ways than just it is difficult to make eye contact. If people work with individuals with autism, they should be educated about it and provided understanding of sign language or other common alternate forms of communication used by those with autism.
It is important that autistic people do find forms of non verbal communication as it can allow them to communicate when they are unable to. Those with non verbal autism, those who have selective mutism, and those who are experiencing shutdown may feel alienated by being unable to communicate with the outside world so easily. Whilst things such as messaging may help those people to communicate, you do need to be able to communicate in other environments when messaging is not available but communication is still required.
Just remember to only communicate when you are comfortable and don’t be forced into speaking when you cannot or don’t want to.
Resources for those who want to learn more:
For those who want an alternative form of communication, some you can use are:
Text to speech apps – These can be downloaded from app stores for your phone, and on a computer the Watson Text to Speech demo works rather well (https://www.ibm.com/demos/live/tts-demo/self-service)
Pen and paper
Communication boards – These can be purchased off websites like Amazon
There are more forms of non verbal communication out there – please find what’s comfortable to you as an individual