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!