January 30, 2021
Dear Moms Everywhere,
Autism as a Language Barrier
For far too long, Autism has been described as a ‘behavioural problem’. Could it be that the behaviours we witness are NOT the problem? Could they be the symptom? A symptom of our needs not being met? Of people not understanding what we are trying to say or show? Maybe the people around us are not responsive to our cries for love, affection and sex? Our desire for friendship and company? These are universal human desires that are denied to us for our whole lives. We will never have the kinds of deeper, complex relationships that others will enjoy. And that means we are missing something. Something big, yet simple. Something intrinsic to human nature yet taken away by misunderstandings. Something all our brains are hard-wired to seek out but we are never allowed to feel. Reward. Pleasure.
So why has this gone misdiagnosed for so long? Well, the short answer is that no one has taken the time to communicate with us, to truly understand what we are trying to tell you. The key to communication is understanding that is two ways. The reasons so many of us reject ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) are: It is a one way technique where the child has no voice at all, it considers autism a behaviour problem but not a language barrier and it assumes we are misbehaving or ‘troubled’. We’re good people. Our only real issue is communication. And yet, for so many of us, this has gone unnoticed. Autism is a language barrier and we can use a much more inclusive approach to bridge this gap: teach parents and children sign language. Yes, sign language.
Sign language is the most effective technique for many reasons:
- It puts the parents and children on equal footing, and gives them the same starting point.
- It limits ‘body language’ to just a ‘headshot’, instead focusing on facial expressions which are the most important part of communication. This allows the child to work on a specific skill set without having to learn too much at once. It may be too difficult to read the whole body at once, especially as a child.
- It’s communication – both parties have to ‘share the floor’ and the learning.
- It’s together – we get enough bullying at school and endure lots of frustration. We need a break from the constant antagonism. We need a space where we work together – as a team.
- It creates a framework for splitting up social skills lessons into skill sets (learning nuances/other meanings in speech, vocal lessons to help hearing/using proper voice modulation and non-verbal communication with the whole body)
And I’m sure there will be more good things discovered along the way, but I’ll try to keep this brief.
As a community we want you to know that we are trying our best, but you need to start meeting us half-way, if we are going to make any major breakthroughs. Advocacy is great and we are grateful for it. There are so many wonderful people out there, trying so hard to help. Help us by enabling us to speak our minds without fear or saying something inappropriate. Help us by giving us our voice back and our right to be heard. That’s what communication is – being heard. And we’re asking, pleading – please hear us. Please, hear us.
Lots of love,
Your Autistic Children
Voice In The Wind Magazine Inc.