When Autism Makes Verbal Communication Difficult for Me
One of the many struggles in my life is words. I struggle to produce words. Sometimes people assume I am not able to speak in English fluently. Actually, I speak English almost as well as Japanese, my first language. If you ask me about my interests (autism, horses and ballet), I can talk about them very fluently. In fact, I talk about them very speedily and almost without breath. It doesn’t matter what language I speak in; it makes no difference in the difficulty of producing words. I struggle to produce words in both English and Japanese.
I often don’t even know what I am feeling. My guess is I don’t know my feelings because I don’t have words for them. It is not that I don’t know emotions. I know about being happy, sad, excited, disappointed etc. Sometimes I just cannot connect the emotions with the contexts. I assume I am happy if the people I trust say they are happy. I am fortunate to be able to talk, but I am not able to express what is inside of me in the way I want. I am good at talking about facts, but I am not good at describing my thoughts or feelings.
When a person doesn’t talk, many people assume they have nothing to say. But it is not true. It is very frustrating not to be able to say what you want to say. It feels like I am locked inside myself. I have a lot to say inside of me, but producing words is like squeezing a lemon that has already been squeezed. It is hard. I have my image of peace in my mind, but that peace is actually seen only in a few situations in my life: being at a ranch with horses and dogs, and dancing ballet in a big studio with live piano music. Even then, if there are people around me, they can easily distract me from my definition of peace. My mood is changed a lot by the environment, especially by people. I have an image of peace or happiness in my heart, but it is hard to describe and hard to come by.
Though producing words is very difficult for me, there are other ways to express what is inside of me. This is why I love dancing ballet. Moving my body on the melody of music makes me feel free. I have danced ballet since I was 3 years old, and I feel like myself when I dance ballet. Also, I enjoy being with horses because I don’t need words to communicate with them. I can communicate with them through touches, grooming and just being with them.
From the outside, people may see me as a person who has little to say and behaves in a weird way. I know this as a fact because people have talked to me as if I am a child many times, even though I am 24. However, I want them to know not being able to express with words does not mean I have nothing to say. I have a colorful inner life, I just struggle to share it with others because the method most people use to communicate (words) is difficult for me.
I am not a representative of other autistic people. I respect other autistic people’s different experiences from mine. I also respect those who try to support us. This story is my experience as a verbal autistic young woman, and I understand my nonverbal peers have much more to say about this matter. Whatever way a person communicates, it is always important to listen. I am willing to listen to you as well.
Getty image by Tuain Deed.