I Want My Know-how to Talk! — THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM
We’re honoring Autism Acceptance by publishing April Accommodations—meaning adjustments that other people can do for the autistic people in their lives. (For the flipside, as in things that make life harder for autistics, please see our Autism Checklist of Doom.)
Today, we’re hearing from Ann Memmott, who wants people to respect when she needs tech like cell phones to communicate.
What is a small switch in behavior other people can make, to ease your life as an autistic person?
I need my technology to communicate! As a sometimes-speaking autistic professional, there are continual misunderstandings from people whose speech is reliable. Having spent many years not able to speak, for social communication, my ability to use spoken language is still sometimes unreliable. The more tired or sensory-overwhelmed I become, the less my body and brain wants to deliver useful words in the right order. Sometimes it won’t speak at all, and there’s nothing I can do about it, other than rest and wait.
If advising teams in secure accommodation such as locked hospital wards or prisons, my technology that enables me to use computer-generated language is often removed from me, because it is on my mobile phone. “You can write it down on a piece of paper instead,” they offer. “Someone may take the phone from you, and they are not allowed phones.” This is whilst I am already accompanied by trained staff in that setting. What, write a whole conversation, all day? I find using a pen or pencil difficult, and writing in that way for a long time is really difficult also. How would they feel if I asked them to do the same? My technology is set up so that I can say key things fast, things I really need to say.
If advising teams over video links, I’ll explain that I may need to type into the chat facility. “We can’t interrupt the flow of conversation to keep checking chat!” is a common statement. “We’ll get round to looking at what you had to say when we have a chance.” By the time they do, that conversation is already over. Decisions have already been made.
How will this accommodation make your life easier?
If we say we need a piece of technology, enable that. If a meeting knows I need to use a chat facility for video, enable support for that so that I join in equally.
What is one thing that brings you joy?
Teams that realize our speech accommodations are as vital as hearing loops. Wheelchairs, or guide dogs are for some other people.
Thank you for reading.