Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Puberty with autism when you are functionally non verbal


Beyond Your Expectations I was asked to write some words of encouragement to a group of functionally non verbal teens with autism who use their typed communication in their work on a wonderful monthly newsletter produced by a group in Arizona called ACT. This is what I wrote:

When I was 9-11 years old I was still largely echolalic and couldn’t converse and most people still thought I was mad. It was partly typing that started at age 9 and by 11-13 lead to poetry that I became aware of how deep I was, how expressive I was in there. I did gain functional speech by age 11 but it took another 7 years to communicate well enough to consistently be considered ‘probably sane’.

It is possible, as Larry and Tracy have shown in the film Wretches and Jabberers

, to still push forward to gaining as much functional speech as one can… and it depends on what is at work with each person’s communication disorders, we all have different stuff at work there, and some people may have to be content with their type speaking as their voice, a valid, equal, progressively dependable and progressively more independent voice. So challenge yourselves but also accept yourself as you are.

One of the identity and adjustment complications with autism is it is developmental. So when we are developmentally struggling we end up either hoping so much we will overcome our obstacles that we create immense frustration and despair if we can’t, or we give up and invest in our carers, make them our voices, our minds but then fear losing control of them and facing our own vulnerability and the huge seemingly insurmountable developmental mountain that seems ahead of us. There’s a middle ground… to believe one can always strive to be more than one already is, but equally invest in loving oneself as one already is in each moment, each day. Whatever the challenges, they are always easier when we like ourselves for this calms the wildness and gives us a better hold on the reins of volition.


Donna Williams


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