What It’s Like to Go Nonverbal

What It’s Like to Go Nonverbal

It?s almost physically painful to talk.

Image for postPhoto by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

I hate small talk. That?s just part of who I am.

It?s one reason I?m so glad to finally be living alone.

When I lived with my parents, they would ask me how work was every time I came home. While I definitely could appreciate their concern, the question always bothered me for some reason.

Maybe it was because I was tired from dealing with people all day. I used to work a retail job where I would have to put on a people-person facade to talk to customers.

When I moved on from that job to my current one, I used to have to commute an hour and a half in traffic. That exhausted me mentally and physically.

Both of those occasions made answering simple questions as soon as I got home almost impossible. Just saying the words ?fine? or ?good? or even grunting in assent took all of what little energy I had left.

It wasn?t until recently that I realized I was going nonverbal in those moments. I needed time to recharge from being around people or in a stressful situation, like Dallas rush hour traffic, for several hours a day.

Being nonverbal is a fairly common trait among people on the autism spectrum. Some folks can?t talk at all, while for others, it?s more of a temporary state.

It typically happens when we go into sensory overload from being overstimulated by our surroundings. That?s another common trait of people with autism.

Going nonverbal is basically when someone with autism shuts down and can?t talk.

Well, speaking from personal experience, it?s not impossible to talk per se. It just becomes incredibly difficult and it takes all of my strength.

It?s like walking barefoot on pins and needles when everyone else but me came prepared with steel-toed boots.

The best way to deal with someone with autism going nonverbal? Only ask them yes or no questions.

That way they can simply nod or shake their head. Start off with ?are you nonverbal right now??

I can still nod my head when my ability to speak has been impaired. I might not be willing to hold down a conversation, but I can still give you basic affirmative or negative answers.

Ultimately, if you want to have an actual chat with me when I?ve gone nonverbal, you?ll just have to wait it out.


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