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Listen 2 Us - Literacy, Self-Determination, and Interdependence for Nonspeakers

Non-speaking Does Not Equal Non-Verbal


Do you identify as nonspeaking? as nonverbal? both? or neither?

DJ:  I am nonspeaking. I am not nonverbal. In fact, I am highly verbal. I don’t use my body’s voice—my vocal chords—as my primary way of communicating. I think I will learn to talk, but I use other means to communicate because at this point it’s not easy for people to understand what I’m saying. I might look “dumb,” but I’m not. I’m just nonspeaking. Speech is assessed as not important by me because it uses a lot of my body, and I don’t have it all under control yet.  For now, I like to sign and to write my ideas. I am verbal. If I weren’t, I couldn’t be writing to you right now. I have a lot to say, and I use my written language to say it. I am verbal. I can message
my ideas but not say them  out loud. I am verbal.

So why is it important for people to quit equating nonspeaking to nonverbal?
DJ:  Nonspeaking doesn’t mean I have no ideas or no way to communicate them. Nonspeaking doesn’t mean I can’t learn to read or write like everyone else. But I can’t if you don’t teach me how. And calling me nonverbal is like saying I can’t learn to read and write. Sometimes I look sandy, but I’m not. (Sandy is a word I use to describe when I meditate in my mind and lose my language.) Assume you are me and you sanely learn to read and write. Not nonverbal.

People use the verbal/nonverbal binary a lot, particularly when it comes to autistics. How is that
binary used?

DJ: I think people use it to desert hope for nonspeaking people. It’s part of the idea of a spectrum or of a weeding out classification. And it’s unjust because it’s segregating my people into classrooms of easy lessons.