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.