For over 14 years, Gordy couldn’t communicate with his parents. Dara and Evan Baylinson didn’t think their child could understand a word they had ever spoken to him. He was diagnosed with autism at just 17 months of age, and never spoke a single word. Since they had no reason to believe he could understand, they didn’t filter their conversations. They spoke openly about their worries and frustrations, never considering that their son might actually be hearing them.
Until one therapist tried something new. Using the “Rapid Prompting Method,” she asked Gordy questions and had him answer by pointing to alphabet letters. Incredibly, he did just that. Slowly, at first. But soon, he was able to use a keyboard by typing one letter at a time with his right index finger.
That is when his parents realized that he was a unique and knowledgeable person, he just had no way to communicate with them. He expressed interest in the local police, and wanted to help them understand what it meant to encounter someone with autism. His parents were floored. They didn’t realize that he knew what the police were, much less that he had very strong opinions about their methods when it came to autistic people.
My name is Gordy, and I am a teenager with nonspeaking autism. I prefer this term rather than low functioning, because if I am typing you this letter, which I am, I am clearly functioning. I felt very strongly about writing you today, to give a little extra insight on the disconnected links that were supposed to make my brain and body work together in harmony. But, they don’t and that’s okay. You see, life for me and others like me is like a daily game, expect not fun, of tug-of-war. My brain, which is much like yours, knows what it wants and how to make that clear. My body, which is much like a drunken, almost six foot toddler, resists.
This letter is not a cry for pity, pity is not what I’m looking for. I love myself just the way I am, drunken toddler body and all. This letter is, however, a cry for attention, recognition and acceptance. With your attention, I can help you recognise the signs of nonspeaking autism. If you can recognise the signs, then you will be able to recognise our difference which then leads to the understanding of those differences which brings us to the wonders of acceptance. With these simple ingredients, together we can create a safe, welcoming and happy environment for both autistics and neurotypicals alike.
The physical signs to look for are flapping hands or some other socially unacceptable movement, words, noises or behaviour in general. That’s uncontrollable. With a mind and feelings much like everyone else’s, do you truly believe we like acting that way? I don’t, that’s for sure.
If one becomes aggressive, with biting or hitting for example, obviously protect yourself but there is no reason to use aggression in return. Remember, this aggression, is an uncontrollable reaction, most likely triggered by fear.
Nothing means more to people like us than respect. I can tell you with almost on hundred percent certainty the situation will go down a lot easier with this knowledge.
I have nothing but respect for you all and everything you do. If it weren’t for you, I would never have had this opportunity to advocate for myself and other autistics. I look forward to meeting you.
Just because someone can’t speak, it doesn’t mean that they don’t understand. That is what Gordy wants everyone to know. This letter is incredible.
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