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Verbal communication doesn't show a level of understanding

There is a preconceived view that autistic children are non verbal. I have concluded over the years that when people comment that a person doesn’t “look autistic” they are actually saying “they talk”!

To reach the threshold for a diagnosis of autism you need to have an impairment in communication and it is important to remember that the impairment is not in speech. Equally that a persons ability to talk doesn’t in isolation mark the degree that their autism impacts their daily life.

One of my most intelligent mentees is non verbal. We have virtual mentoring sessions when they use text chat to discuss things or alternatively we use email. There is no doubt that they have enormous challenges with their verbal communication but they are able to communicate eloquently in writing and give an insightful and informative understanding of the challenges they face as well as potential solutions. Other mentees are able to communicate verbally with abundance but what they actually communicate is limited. They use lots of complex phrases that they have picked up via echolaea which can and do sound impressive but they are unable to communicate some basic every day needs.

The rise in availability of assistive technology in recent years has been amazing. There are communication programmes available throughout the range of levels. I use ones that help me to read text and write it. When I don’t have access to them my ability to communicate is enormously impaired. Communication doesn’t have to be words even. It could be a colour code or a GIF picture.

It is so important to foster a communication method that works. If that means sending a picture or putting a thumbs up or down to a message it doesn’t matter what is important is that they are communicating.

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