Speech Is Seriously Overrated

Assuming someone who does not speak is unintelligent is ableist b.s.

There is a harmful and uneducated faction of the population who wrongly believe those who don’t use speech to communicate are less intelligent than those who do.

Even more dangerous to the autonomy of non-speakers are those who believe that Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and other alternative forms of communication, are “pseudoscientific”. They believe the messages conveyed are somehow influenced and do not represent the individual’s thoughts or intended message.


“Do your research” they say

As if they’ve actually read any of the actual research themselves, rather than simply regurgitating what they read on social media, or heard someone else say in a video post.

They wield this statement as though it were a definitive statement, proving you know not of which you speak. Except let’s not forget the field of science is wrought with systemic problems. Research is an imperfect process performed by imperfect humans.

While I do love evidence and data, and certainly find value in the scientific literature, we must not bow to almighty science, as though it cannot be questioned—unquestioning acceptance is the complete opposite of what the scientific method is about.


A little background

Neuroclastic, a non-profit advocacy organization run for and by Autistic and disabled people, has a section on their website dedicated to articles, blogs, and other works by non-speaking Autistics.

certain ableist behaviourist had the audacity to straight-up accuse Neuroclastic of faking these articles. He said other people wrote the articles, then Neuroclastic falsely claimed they were written by non-speaking Autistics.

In an effort to address the offensive rumours, and to combat some of the harmful and ignorant statements being made by this “behaviour analyst” (and his followers), Neuroclastic extended an invitation to Mr. White Man With Beard (who shall henceforth be referred to as WMWB) to join them on a livestream.

I’d never attended a livestream before, and I’m not sure I ever will again, but I am very glad I attended this one in particular. It was very hard to listen to WMWB refer to us (Autistics) as the “autism population” as though we’re a monolithic, non-human entity, rather than at least 150 million unique individuals worldwide.

The representatives from Neuroclastic were amazing. I am awed by their patience, poise, intelligence, and advocacy. The Autistic community also rallied around them, in support of and alongside, our non-speaking neurokin, many of whom shared their personal experiences and reactions in the comments during the livestream.


Let’s get right down to it

Many alternative methods of communication presume competence of the individuals using them. This means we acknowledge and understand that, given the proper tools and resources, people are able to communicate in ways other than speaking.

Plenty of Deaf and non-speaking people communicate directly using signed languages, writing, typing, and specialized apps or computer programs.

Ever heard of Dr. Stephen Hawking, my guy? Yeah, the Dr. Stephen Hawking uses text-to-speech software, which is a form of AAC. I wonder if our ableist behaviourists would have liked to question the great Dr. Hawking about his capacity and competency?

© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB


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For the full articles

This summary brings together two separate articles I recently published on Medium in response to some very ugly behaviour by certain ableist behaviourists, and in reaction to one in particular.

Published by Neurodiversity MB

Jillian has Child and Youth Work diploma as well as a BA in Psychology. Jillian worked on the front lines of Social Services agencies from 2003 - 2012. Jillian has taken numerous continuing education courses and has attended various workshops focused on supporting neurodiverse children, in particular children with ADHD.

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