“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” -unknown
Feb. 8, 2023
If you search the internet for heroes with autism, you will find a host of individuals. However, if you add the word “non-verbal” to your search, you will get very different results. The internet is not the only place where individuals with autism and limited verbal skills are under-represented. They also struggle for representation in research which has been noted as a downfall in the field. It is estimated that at least one third of individuals with autism are non-verbal or have minimal verbal skills. What is even more striking is that no one knows why this occurs. Even with all of our advanced imaging abilities, there are many mysteries still hidden in the brain. So today, we tip our hats to the approximately 1.8 million people who wake up each morning and choose to get out of bed despite their inability to verbally communicate in addition to the other challenges of autism they face. While most researchers agree they can usually understand more language than they can produce, they still face a world of people who communicate verbally. We can only imagine the frustration they face daily and the courage it takes to face those challenges day after day, month after month and year after year. The next time you think you are being driven crazy by your toddler who just won’t stop talking or your teenager who makes snarky comments, consider what life would be like if they could not do that. It is easy to take things for granted until you see what life is like without them. To those of us who get to observe their tenacity and determination, these minimally verbal individuals who keep trying, truly are heroes.