Ido Kedar is a fourteen year old 8th grader in all general education at his local middle school, which he attends with the with the support of an aide. Ido is also non-verbal and communicates via letterboard (unassisted) or dynawrite. He was not able to demonstrate that he understood language fluently until he was age seven. It took several years after that to convince the school district to remove him from his remedial autism class and since, he has taken off running.
“I am here to represent the point of view of people with autism who don’t speak. Some of you might be parents of non-verbal people like me and stopped believing it was possible that your child could ever learn communication or even to understand.
I don’t doubt that experts probably told you that it was false hope to imagine that your child could talk. Well, I don’t talk but I still go to regular middle school in regular classes and do regular schoolwork, and I get good grades. I tell you this, not to brag, but to give you hope.
I don’t need to talk with my mouth. It’s too hard. But I’m able to communicate thanks to my letter board and dynawrite. It was a long journey to get to here from where I started. I had years of silence and rotten frustration. I was totally not able to show people I understood, so I suffered inside while my specialists chose wrong for me.
It was the worst, and I know it’s equally challenging for parents too.
I want people to know that not speaking is not the same as not thinking; that poor fine motor is not the same as not thinking; that impulsive actions are different than not understanding right from wrong; that poor facial affect is not the same as not having feelings; that boring people to death is denying them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But here’s my hope. I went from so bored in school in remedial education when I couldn’t communicate to a diploma path in high school next year. How, is the story of the potential in your kids.
Teach them interesting things. Read them age appropriate books. Talk normally to them. Not, “go car,” “say hi,” “good job.” I believe many autistic people are understanding inside and can’t show it. To be talked to like a baby is so frustrating.
The letter board was my freedom. This is it.
It takes a while to learn how to use it, but it’s worth it.
Communication is the most important thing.
I used to dream of talking, of course. But I am not free because I talk. I don’t talk. I am free because I can express my ideas in pointing to letters, in typing, in my blog and in my speeches. I am not lonely now.
Autism is a deep pit. Don’t give up.”