Anti-Semantism: How to Get Your Autistic Child to “Communicate”

Welcome to Anti-Semantism, a section of Angry Autie that tackles language use, especially as it pertains to autism and discussing it. Words are very profound and powerful things. People know this in the abstract but yet continue using words imprecisely. It may seem like what I’m doing here is just nit-picking to most people but I find the way that people use words to be extremely revealing, more revealing than they may want. It is possible to call people out on bullshit based on their word-choice. I believe that a lot of problems arise from a misunderstanding in communication, which people with autism supposedly lack. In Anti-Semantism, there’ll be diatribes against certain terms, an analysis of how certain terms are used, and more. Any topic that is about language use in autism discourse will fall under the “Anti-Semantism” label.

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As hugely skeptical as I am about everything that I read on autism, I recognize that an inability to speak is an actual thing among people with autism. If your autistic child can’t “communicate” (even though the word you’re actually looking for is “talk”), follow these steps:

  1. Teach him to read. This will be the hardest part. Achieving literacy is difficult enough as it is but if your child is without speech, it will be difficult to mark your progress. My father, however, made it his business to read to me everyday, before and after diagnosis.
  2. Buy him a computer.
  3. Get a word processor, preferably one that can read aloud what you type.
  4. Teach him how to type.
  5. That’s actually it. This step is here just to make it look like there are more steps even though there aren’t.
  6. The same can be said for this one.
  7. And this one.
  8. Why are you still reading this? Your child is in the other room right now, typing a fascinating lecture on trains!

Now I know what you’re going to say: “But my child isn’t REALLY communicating. He’s just typing on a machine!” May I remind you that communication simply refers to the act of expressing thoughts and ideas, regardless of the medium? Technically, typing is communicating if he shows what he types to somebody. Would you rather engage in the possibly futile and incredibly expensive struggle of getting him to simultaneously vibrate his vocal chords while moving his tongue and lips into strange and intricate positions, an act that you somehow take for granted? Some may start speaking on their own terms while others may never speak. You need to respect whatever direction your child’s biology and speech patterns take and accommodate it rather than fight against it for the sake of an ideal.

Besides, the idea that people with autism cannot communicate is largely bullshit. I think that the fact that people refer to speech as “communication” without the understanding that “communication” is a much broader term leads to a lot of confusion. Here’s an example of a person with autism who cannot speak communicating just fine.

“But he can’t just lug a computer around everywhere!” Get an iPad then. “That’s still too big!” Get an iPad mini, then. “That’s still too big!” Get an iPod Touch then. “But we don’t like Apple!” Look into other shit then. Seriously, with the kind of technology available these days, there are too many options to make pathetic excuses like this, hypothetical questioner. Granted the computer is not perfect but perfection is not the goal and should never be. As long as he’s able to express himself, there’s really no problem.

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