I Use My Words (Except When I Can’t)

I can’t remember ever not being able to read. After 1st grade our neighbor, a retired teacher with a master’s degree in reading education, noticed me reading to groups of older neighborhood kids and tested my reading level. I was apparently reading on a 12th grade level. I performed a scene from King Lear (all parts) at a talent show when I was in the 4th grade. I took acting classes at the Alley Theatre in Houston from 6th-8th grade and acted in a number of things over that period as well as competing in speaking and drama competitions.

I have words, more words than most people, and I use my words.

Except, frustratingly, sometimes I lose my words.

It’s something I’ve never really spoken about before, probably because it has always intensely bothered me. My words have always been a core part of my identity. I am expressive and articulate. I never understood how or why I would sometimes find myself effectively mute.

It’s difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced it, but there are times, typically when I am stressed or overloaded, when I will suddenly have no words to speak. Someone will ask me a question, I will start to respond, and … nothing. The harder I try to find words, the more they escape me. I can almost taste the words in my mouth. I know I should be able to respond. I ought to have something to say. But my mind is unable to make that connection. If I’m able to force something out, I can hear my own halting speech, and I don’t recognize it. It’s the voice of a stranger.  I know the words are wrong.

It’s an unpleasant experience made much worse when you have no idea why it keeps happening to you.

After I was diagnosed, I found blogs and videos from other autistic people. When a number of them described a similar experience, I felt relief. No, it doesn’t mean I won’t lose my words anymore. But now, at least, I’ll understand why. It won’t be something I have to struggle to hide. It won’t torment me to the extent it has in the past.

And I’ll know I’m not alone.

That matters more than I can express.

I use my words, at least when I have them.

And that’s okay.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted September 18, 2016 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Yes! I haven’t posted much about this phenomenon yet, but I experience this as well. I was reading books before I was 3 years old (apparently reading many words before 2 years old) and I’ve always been very good with written communication. But spoken comes and goes.

    You’re definitely not alone!

  2. Posted September 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks! This was definitely one of the things that mystified and frustrated me for so long. It was really, really hard having no idea why it would happen sometimes.

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