‘The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium’ (Oxford dictionary)
The definition of communication as stated above makes it clear communication can be exchanged in multiple mediums, yet most people seem to only validate and respond to spoken words.
All the information shared in this piece has been expressed directly from Autistics, with consent to share.
Most people when they want to communicate their point of view, emotions and ideas, are likely to do so this through speech. Expressing your emotions, feelings and ideas with others is important to you right? Imagine for a moment you could not express these feelings through speech. Please Just take a moment and consider how that must feel. Now consider what would you do? wouldn’t you try and use any communication medium to express how you feel? For many Autistics this is how they might feel, it must be extremely frustrating.
For some Autistics the use of speech is not possible, or an easy option.
Does this and should this detract from the importance of what the person has to express or contribute? No, it should not! Are some nonverbal Autistics made to feel by others that it does detract? Absolutely! Is this ok? NO!!
‘many of us have a voice inside, we have opinions to share’ Bernadette Crips (Bernadette cannot communicate through speech)
This is how I speak It is not ‘wrong’ It is not ‘inappropriate’ I don’t speak I type.(Olympia Ellinas)
I want to share the multiple ways my verbal Autistic daughter communicates, as at times speaking is impossible for her. Many Autistics that are verbal and use speech have times when speech is impossible. There can be many reasons why this happens. Anxiety, new experiences and multiple reasons. Sometimes people will say ‘but you used speech before, so you can use it now’ this is simply not true and making comments and assumptions about this, is not helpful it’s hurtful. If Autistics are choosing to not communicate through speech at that point.
Alternative mediums of communication;
The Picture Exchange Communication System(PECS)
This system allows anyone who has difficulties with communication to have the tools needed to communicate, their feelings and wants using pictures. PECS can be taught to anyone with little or no communication, but equally at times Autistics that are verbal might use the system as well. The person can approach another person and give them a picture of a desired item, in exchange for that item. This, has then given the person the opportunity to initiate communication and express their feelings. PECS can be used in the classroom and taken anywhere so it’s a portable system. My Autistic daughter is verbal but has lots of moments when being verbal is too difficult, so we use PECS. PECS is great for showing Autistics what’s going to happen now and next, it gives a clear understanding of routines. https://www.nationalautismresources.com/the-picture-exchange-communication-system-pecs/
Makaton uses signs, symbols and speech to help anyone communicate. Signs are used, with speech, in spoken word order. The reason for this can give extra clues about what someone is trying to say. Using signs can help anyone who has no speech or anyone who is struggling to use speech or their speech is unclear. The use of symbols can help anyone who has limited speech and someone might not want to use signs. I bought a small basic book with Makaton signs in it, it was really helpful with my daughter.
Zones of Regulations
This is a visual way of expressing emotions, my daughter has used this and has found it helpful to express her emotions. The Zones of Regulation has allowed me support her in a person-centred way, as she has been able to fully express how she feels.
There are 4 zones;
The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions. A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behaviour, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone.
The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions; however, one has more control when they are in the Yellow Zone. A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.
The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone. This is the zone where optimal learning occurs.
The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.
Have a look on the website it explains in more detail how to use it correctly, my daughter used it as a way to express when verbalising her emotions is too difficult.
There are so many good apps out there that can help a person to communicate their feelings, emotions, ideas. This can be through the person typing or pressing pictures and that can be put into sentences, and the app will say this out loud. My daughter went through a stage of using apps to communicate, and still now at times will revert back to using them.
These forms of communication are what I have experienced and used, there are more out there, but I like to talk about ones I have seen working.
My daughter also uses art and writing things down to express herself. I am so glad my daughter had multiple mediums to communicate with me, otherwise I would have missed so many of her thoughts, ideas and feelings.
Many Autistic Adults will be using some of these communication mediums, and lots of Autistics including myself might prefer to communicate through email or texting. I really prefer communicating in this way, as it allows me to have time to consider my response. Sometimes I am really not sure what I am feeling, so, it’s easier to express this via message. Talking on the phone is hard for me, I often interrupt people as I have something I want to say and if I don’t say it I will forget it. When listening to someone on the phone I find it hard as I have to focus on what the person is saying, this then leads me to not being able to consider how I will respond and what do I think. The other side of that is I can be thinking and that will then distract me from the conversation, and I can then lose track of the conversation. The whole experience is very draining and often after I have a headache.
Whatever mediums of communication that Autistics choose to use does not make their ideas, feelings and input less valuable than someone who uses speech to communicate. Please remember, respect all mediums of communication.
This piece is written not spoken, does this mean it’s not as interesting or important?
Autistics Voices need to be heard.
Girls Autistic Journey ♥