More threads by 1210donna


I am speaking in August in New Hampshire and found one of my co-presenters is Jamie Burke so looked him up. I so enjoyed reading of Jamie?s progression from facilitated, typed communication into functional, interactive speech, that I really felt compelled to share it:

In this article, Richard Attfield is also cited. It was exciting to read how Richard is also progressing with speech as I?ve known Richard since his teens when he first began with typed communication and he?s a courageous, self-challenging, determined man whose battle to gain control of dysfunctional language has helped inspire others to believe, with practice and via a pathway which makes developmental sense TO THEM, progress and that intelligence should never be judged by dysfunctional language, the same as intelligence in those with compulsive disorders and cerebral palsy should never be judged by involuntary or restricted movements.

I?m very proud of these two young men and the wonderful emergence of those with autism who have have been functionally ?non-verbal? onto the autism and disability talk circuit. This is long overdue.
As someone who had dysfunctional language till age 9-11 who was also helped enormously through a typewriter at that age and assistance to link written words to interpretive meanings via gestures for the words (as the pictures didn?t like directly to meaning either), I passionately waited for those like Jamie and Richard to be listened to in these arenas.

Most autism conferences are dominated by presenters on the autism spectrum who either always had functional language or had articulation problems (as in the case of Temple Grandin), or speech delay (as in the case of Temple Grandin and Wendy Lawson) but had functional speech by infancy or early childhood. Since Sue Rubin?s academy award nominated Autism Is a World, and publications of works by people like Lucy Blackman, Sharisa Kochmeister, Larry Bissonette and Alberto Frugone, this is changing.
Those battling with extreme impulse control challenges who are echolalic with lots of stored phrases which fire by association or at random, have a very different battle in order to develop functional interpretive language.
To use an analogy, the first group are essentially trying to get a new born horse to walk and to walk well without clumsiness. The second group are trying to tame a young wild stallion nobody can come near so it can interact in a comprehensible and relatively intentional and controlled manner. Asking the first group what its like to tame dysfunctional language and progressively lead it to functional language (typed or spoken) is like asking someone in the hardware store to give you expertise on shoes.

If you want to understand language delayed children who speak by age 2,3 or 4, then ask those who?ve had that. If you want to understand the impulse control challenges of those with dysfunctional speech in acquiring functional communication, ask those who, more than speech delay, poor articulation (including Oral Dyspraxia), had these type of issues. And if you want to understand those for whom fear is the greatest obstacle in Selective Mutism within their autism, then ask someone whose experienced this (and some have experienced all three, others only one or the other).

Communication challenges in autism and their social, emotional and learning consequences are dramatically different for those in each of these groups. We need to question the presumptions of any ONE spokesperson in ONE of these groups when they assume absolutes of ?high? or ?low? functioning or presume the absolute validity of intelligence based on IQ tests given to people with language processing or impulse control disorders they have not, themselves had.

If we are too impressed by the culture of celebrity to question such things, we may be sitting goggle-eyed listening to the hardware salesman selling shoes. Go find a shoe shop.

? Donna Williams *)
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