Not being able to do things does not mean something is wrong with me.
Surprisingly, the community that has the hardest time understanding this is the autistic community.
When I am completely nonverbal — non-speaking, non-typing — it does not necessarily mean something is wrong. It does not have to mean I am overloaded. It does not have to mean anything bad at all.
If I am not carrying a communication device, it does not mean someone has neglected me somehow.
Sometimes, when I can’t speak or type, it means I’m very relaxed and comfortable. It means I’m relaxed and comfortable enough to let my guard down. To not have to always be “on”. To be comfortable communicating in the ways that come the most naturally to me (which don’t involve AAC in any traditional sense of the word).
It’s weird…. I’ve written about this from the start, back in 2000 when I was trying to write about autism and assistive tech. About how sometimes when you can’t speak, it’s not a shutdown and it doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. And yet people, including me, still get weirdness from other auties when we’re nonverbal or non-language-capable entirely.
It’s like they can’t imagine not being able to speak/type without it being a problem of some kind that needs fixing. Not even after 14 years of attempted advocacy.
A lot of my nonverbal episodes (maybe even most of them) are when I’m really happy and comfortable and content. I can theoretically force myself out of a nonverbal episode in such circumstances, in a way that I cannot when I’m nonverbal because I’m overloaded or upset. But, it takes so much effort, and it’s really unpleasant. Doing so will usually destroy the pleasant mood that triggered the nonverbal episode in the first place.
Realizing that I don’t have to use spoken language to communicate — and having friends who are supportive and accepting of that — has been truly fantastic for me, and has made my life a lot better
I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten, “Are you okay?” when I’m being happy nonverbal.