Autism Advocacy

Living in a speakers’ world

Hi everyone,  

I have been pondering a lot lately about what living in a speaking society means to those of us who are non-speakers. I recently learned that term, “non-speaker,” and how it is different from being “non-verbal.” I am verbal.  I make lots of noises, sounds, and words. I can communicate simple things with words, but I am hindered dramatically when it goes beyond a very basic level.  I certainly am unable to have a back-and-forth conversation about anything useful or important. So, in a speakers’ world, I am dysfunctional, a “non-speaker.” 

Human society is set up for speakers. Non-speakers are almost unrecognizable as people. We are more like dolphins, who scientists say are quite intelligent on the inside.  But what use is that to humans if they can’t understand how to communicate with the dolphins? In that setting, dolphins then just become like trainable pets.  Teach them some tricks and call it progress.  

We, non-speakers, are like that.  We are intelligent but can’t speak your language.  So what use are we? Put us in school, teach us a few tricks, and call it progress?  It is not helpful or reasonable to teach us to try to communicate using the constraints of verbal language. You might as well teach a dolphin how to speak.  No matter how hard I try, I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to speak my mind. And yet, I am intelligent and can make a contribution to this world— if only speakers can become listeners instead.  

There are so many non-speakers out there, and we are discovering our own way forward by communicating in writing. Again, speakers may find it relatively easy to just write down what they are thinking.  But for us, writing is still unnatural and requires a lot of training and effort. Our motor skills are challenged, and our bodies don’t listen to our brains very well.   However, with time and patience and a lot of perseverance, we can learn to get our thoughts out of our heads.  Thankfully, more and more of us non-speakers are finding sympathetic teachers and trainers who are helping us break out of our acorn shells.  

Watch out speakers’ world, some great oak trees are growing!     

a picture of an acorn: a new autism symbol


  • Julie damron

    Wow. This is amazing. I’m a linguist and I’ve never really thought about this before. That’s sad on my part. Thank you for sharing this and helping to create new knowledge in me. I’d love to continue this conversation.

  • Carol Bain

    Aron I knew your Grandpa Norm Wood and so wish he was here. First he would be very involved in your learning and growth and Second he would also teach you a lot along with your parents and gradma

  • Natalya Chayka

    Your amazing! This is so insightful. This is something I will ever forget… non-speaker. I love your work!

  • Carrie Kizek

    Aaron, my 14 year old son, Charlie is a nonspeaker with autism. He is doing Spell 2 Communicate therapy on a letterboard. We still have a long way to go, but he’s working so hard and doing great! Your lessons on the I-asc website have been so awesome! Thank you so much for contributing and helping us understand to a very small degree what it’s like for you guys. I appreciate it so much!

  • Truman Jepson

    Aaron, I am your uncle Truman; your Grandpa Jepson’s brother. I lived in the Northwest for over the better part of the past 65years and sorry to say have not been very much in tune with my Southern Utah relatives and their children and grandchildren. We moved back to Southern Utah in November of 2019 but I came with some baggage of my own, Polymyalga Rheumatica. This disease caused me great pain in my right shoulder, down my right arm and out to my fingertips plus pain in my left hip. Shortly after moving here the disease jumped from my shoulder, arm, hand, fingers and hip to the right side of my face leaving that side of my face half numb and my sinuses on that side of my face exposed to all kinds of life threatening diseases and sinus infections. I have had at least 5 life threatening diseases since moving here. I will probably have this condition for the rest of my life. I am currently 86 years young so I have a ways to go yet. The reason for sharing this information with you is to let you know I have been busy tending my own problems but recognize that is no excuse for not being more concerned with my extended family.

    Anyway I have just recently become acquainted with your story and have been fascinated with what you have been able to do with your lifes situation. You have gained my admiration with all that you have been able to accomplish and the contributions you have made to the Autism community. I wish you well in all your endeavors.

    Best wishes,
    Uncle Truman

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