Always Presume Competence (Part 2)

Teaching Language and Communication to Autistic Children

Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and internationally renowned autism spokesperson, was one of the first autistic people who wrote about her lack of speech during early childhood. She gave us a rare glimpse into the autistic mind when she wrote, 

“Not being able to speak was utter frustration. If adults spoke directly to me I could understand everything they said, but I could not get my words out. It was like a big stutter. If I was placed in a slight stress situation, words would sometimes overcome the barrier and come out. My speech therapist knew how to intrude into my world. She would hold me by my chin and made me look in her eyes and say “ball.” At age 3, “ball” came out “bah,” said with great stress. If the therapist pushed too hard I threw a tantrum, and if she did not intrude far enough no progress was made. My mother and teachers wondered why I screamed. Screaming was the only way I could communicate. Often, I would logically think to myself, ‘I am going to scream now because I want to tell somebody I don’t want to do something.’” 

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