Managing Editor's Note: My daughter Bella is pre-verbal. She has a few sounds. A few words. Her inability to speak is dangerous to her well being. It frustrates her to pieces. It is behind many of her behaviors. As I am typing this, she is grabbing my arm and moaning, trying to tell me something. She has a GoTalk and an iPad - neither of which replace a VOICE. Humans evolved "higher" than animals so that we could communicate. I want the American media to say, "What the freak happened to this child's brain that wiped out her ability for form mouth movements that lead to sounds that lead to speech?" And the kids below.
By Anne Dachel
Say “non-verbal” twenty times.
I was reading several stories recently and I noticed a passing remark about an autistic child being “non-verbal.” NON-VERBAL means they don’t speak. Does that bother anyone? Evidently not, since the non-verbal phrase wasn’t a focus or a cause for concern. Non-verbal is just the way a particular child is.
So when did being NON-VERBAL become acceptable? I don’t remember ever hearing about children NOT BEING ABLE TO SPEAK when I was a kid. Even children who were developmentally disabled (or as they were called “mentally retarded”) could talk. I’m sure there were children who didn’t speak, but they were rare. I would have been very interested in seeing someone like this. Now they’re everywhere and no one is asking why.
This is frightening. We’re conditioned to children like this, thanks to stories like these. Every one of these stories brings up the issue in a very matter-of-fact way. I stopped when I found 20 stories from the last month. It didn’t take me long and I had lots to choose from.
June 5, 2013, CBS Los Angeles: Man, 19, With Special Form Of Autism Finds New Way To Express Himself
"Los Angeles teenager with non-verbal autism is making use of modern technology to find his voice."
June 7, 2013, Chicago Tribune: Database allows residents to share extra information during 911 calls
"If a family member or baby sitter calls 911, a dispatcher will see what James and his family look like and immediately learn that the teen is nonverbal and has strong allergies to peanuts and penicillin."
June 8, 2013, KATU Portland, OR: Young Autistic Boy Needs More Treatment
"Sammy is currently nonverbal and needs about 40 hours per week of intensive therapy to (hopefully) bring him up to par with his peers by Kindergarten, or as close as possible."
June 14, 2013, WLTX-TV Columbia SC: Kershaw County Missing Child Found Dead
"He says he was found in the pool of a home a quarter of a mile down the road from Pine Grove. He says the child was autistic and non-verbal."
"Coulton, her second son, is also non-verbal and is confined to a wheelchair and lives with autism."
June 17, 2013, Jacksonville (NC) Daily News: Bill to help with care for autistic children
"She ran through the house calling his name but the non-verbal Giles could not answer."
June 19, 2013, Fort Wayne (IN) News Sentinel: Children with autism dare to dream
"Brooks is normally nonverbal."
June 20, 2013, News12, The Bronx, NY: Carmen Luchesse claims 4-year-old autistic son assaulted at Birch Family Services in Riverdale
"According to Carmen Luchesse, a teacher’s assistant at Birch Family Services in Riverdale beat her non-verbal son, Jovanni Gomez."
June 24, 2013, Mount Olive Chronicle (Chester, NJ): Autistic Budd Lake man graduates, faces shaky future
"McEntee, 21, the son of Lynn and Larry McCentee, is non-verbal and has autism so it was no small feat when he graduated on Thursday, June 20, from Eden Autism Services in Princeton."
June 24, 2013, Kentucky New Era: Couple builds family tree through foster care, adoption
"Andy is nonverbal with autism and will need lifelong care – a commitment Richard and Mike agreed on."
June 25, 2013, Kentucky.com Lexington KT: Lawmakers lecture insurance companies about paying for autism treatments
"Meanwhile, his 4-year-old son has gone from being non-verbal when he started Highlands two years ago to mastering more than 300 vocabulary words."
June 27, 2013, Half Moon Bay (CA) Review: Special kids benefit from surf and turf
"Miles, who is severely autistic and nonverbal, returned to the second incarnation of Surf Day on June 19, along with 13 other new and returning autistic children.
June 28, 2013, Middletown (NY) Times Herald Record: First responders get tips for dealing with autism"
"In fact, Lee said, half of the children with autism today have limited speaking skills or are entirely nonverbal."
June 28, 2013, ABC6 -TV Austin MN: Parents of Scott Meyer Spread Awareness of Project Lifesave”
"And that was hard because he is non-verbal and can’t talk.”
June 29, 2013, ABC5-TV, St. Paul, MN: Parents of Scott Meyer Spread Awareness of Project Lifesaver
“And that was hard because he is non-verbal and can’t talk.”
June 30, 2013, Stow Sentry (Kent, OH): Stow Pride Breakfast 2013 honors citizens, businesspeople
He purchased an iPad for a non-verbal, autistic student so that he could communicate with his family for the first time.
July 1, 2013, KVUE Los Angeles: Autistic child’s breakthrough gains worldwide fame
“'Soma gives these non-verbal, autistic children a voice,' said Ericsdottir. 'She gives them an outlet for communication.'"
July 2, 2013, Minneapolis Star Tribune: ‘Genuine Genius’: Edina nonprofit website stresses things autistic kids do well
"While Erik is mostly nonverbal and struggles with social interactions, Nordberg said she has always chosen to focus on what Erik can do, not what he can’t. For Erik, that means emphasizing his horseback riding skills."
July 2, 2013, NewsOne: Teen With Autism Allegedly Terrorized With Broomstick By Classroom Aides
"Wesley Malone, who is nonverbal, had been displaying aggressive behavior that concerned his father, John Malone (pictured)."
July 4, 2013, CBS MN: Project Lifesaver: Helping Parents Keep Kids With Autism Safe « CBS Minnesota
"Five-year-old Scott Meyer is non-verbal with autism, so hundreds of volunteers turned out to try and find him."
Maybe the story from the Fort Wayne News Sentinel said it best, "Brooks is normally nonverbal." "Non-verbal" is a new normal for children. We need to get used to it.
Managing Editor's Second Note: Get used to it? NEVER. Thank you Anne.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.