Meaghan's Voice: A Young Woman with Autism Speaks Out
I have listened enough. It is time for me to speak. I have a lot to teach the world about autism. I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to how those of us with autism are perceived by the neurotypical world. If we don't do something, it is presumed that we can't do it, when in fact we might just not want to do it because it is too simple or elementary or because we are tired of it or bored with it. Our brains need to be continuously challenged or we will grow restless and frustrated and act out. Our behavior is our language. Unless we are allowed to type.
For me, typing is a natural means of expression, kind of like your voice is for you. I process language as written words. I always have. When I was first given the opportunity to type, I was so happy to finally have a way to communicate my thoughts. But then my voice was taken away from me and I was devastated, so devastated that I started pulling my hair out. I loved my long hair. I hated losing it. But I hated losing my voice more.
And I really felt sad that no one believed in me. It is important to me that you believe in me so I would like to set the record straight once and for all. I have autism. I am also very intelligent. These two things are completely compatible. My autism has no bearing on my intelligence. Autism makes it difficult to control my body, but my mind functions fine. The problem is the disconnect between my mind and body. My mind tells my body one thing, my body does what it wants. So, in my mind I am able to formulate thoughtful language but what emerges from my mouth is often rote or repetitious.
When I type my body still wants to be in control. I have to focus hard to continuously fight the impulse to hit the same key over and over again. The funny part is, the part you doubt most about me, my facility with words, is the very least of my problems when it comes to typing. It is the visual motor part, not the mental part, that is the real challenge.
You see, my brain has no problem with words and grammar. If language processing topped at the thought level, I would get an A plus. The breakdown happens when it comes to combining words with sound, motor with sensory. The more intricate the neural processing task, the more ways my brain finds to screw it up. My mind just can't get coherent messages through to my mouth. Not just speech. I can tell myself to smile or stick my tongue out until I'm blue in the face, but my mouth won't respond.
However, I can point my finger, and I can use my mind to direct where that finger goes. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but when I discovered that my finger could do the talking it was the very best day of my life. For almost thirty years all my words and thoughts were trapped inside my head and suddenly they were being set free. Typing opened up the pandoras box of my mind - and then it was slammed shut, without my having a say in the matter.
Those of us with disabilities need to have a say, and for many of us having that say requires an alternative means of communication. Requiring slight support does not mean that we are stupid or incapable. It just means that it is much, much harder for us to do the simple things that you neurotypicals take for granted.
Those of us with autism are not crippled but rather blessed with having heightened sensitivities and abilities. That is, if you look beneath the surface. Having autism is a strength not a weakness. Not being able to communicate this to those who so misjudge us is the ultimate irony and tragedy.
To read more of Meaghan's words, and to get a remarkable glimpse inside the autistic mind, please read her book, imPOSSIBLE DREAM. It will change the way you think about not only those with autism, but about what could and should be possible to make their voices and their lives matter.
No one person or one book can make the change that is needed alone.
The first step is understanding. That is why this book was written.
The next one is action. That is why we need you to add to Anna's voice.