Speech is not better

by Adina Levy

All communication is OK, and valid.

Speech (a.k.a mouth words, a.k.a ‘verbal’ communication but this terminology should be phased out – see below) is not better than non-speech communication.


For some people, speech is not possible always, or sometimes. For some people speech abilities are variable, and can be hard and not their best, most reliable or preferred way of communicating.


Gesture, sign, AAC device, writing, body movements, typing, visuals – These and many other ways of communicating are valid, valuable and need to be encouraged, modelled, celebrated, taught and supported for ND children and adults alike. And heck, for all humans.


My questions to you:

  • What beliefs do you have about speech vs non-speech communication?
  • Are you limiting non-speech opportunities?
  • Are you constrained by ableist assumptions of what ‘communication’ types are valid?
  • How can you support autistic and neurodivergent friends, family members, clients, the broader community, and even yourself to use and value non-speech communication methods more?

The image is what I share with parents who want their child to talk/speak more. It’s OK for parents to have that goal, it is understandable. I spend a lot of time and energy educating people about the main goal (which can certainly be the ONLY goal!) – Supporting children to communicate in any way, to reduce frustration and increase connection.


A note on the term ‘verbal’ – this means ‘about words’ so it’s not correct to use ‘verbal’ when talking about mouth words/speech. Sign users, AAC users – are all verbal. But not necessarily using mouth words.


Changing language is a big important part of being a more neurodiversity affirming human 🙂


    If you want to learn more ideas for connecting with your autistic (or possibly autistic) child in a neurodiversity affirming way – I hope you’ll check out my online, on-demand course Connect & Grow.

    This course is for curious parents of autistic (or possibly autistic) children aged around 1- 5 years old. Course access lasts for 12 months and you’ll get access to any updates and extra videos.


    💬 Get in touch

    If you are enquiring about a workshop, webinar, training or a speaking opportunity, I will respond soon. Please note that it can take me a few days to get back to you as I juggle many roles!

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    I am not able to provide personalised advice, resource or service requests/recommendations. You can view my resources & links page here, and view therapy services that I support here. Please note that I no longer take on new speech therapy clients.

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