Autistics Speaking Day 2015 was a day when I did not speak aloud.
Not because I couldn't.
Because I didn't need to.
I used social media sites to talk to the people I wanted to talk to, today.
I rode my bicycle around the town, exploring, and then I sat and watched a river flow by, today.
I worked on applications to PhD programs, today.
And because I did not spend the energy on speaking aloud, I have the energy for other things.
Today, like every Autistics Speaking Day, is November 1st. That's the first day of National Novel Writing Month. I am a bit of a NaNo Rebel this year, because what I am working on is not a novel, but I am participating. I have quite a bit of writing that I am working on -- statements of purpose and personal history statements and various other essays that I need as I apply to PhD programs, short fiction with autistic characters, either of the two novel ideas I've got on the back burner, blog posts, poetry, narrative of some sort for Autonomous Press -- the list goes on, I'm sure.
Like most writers, I read a lot. I read fiction, both in the genres I write (science fiction and fantasy, mostly) and in other genres. I re-read Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black today. I started reading Accessing the Future today. I read blogs. I read non-fiction. Right now I'm reading Biopolitics and Utopia, and also Neurotribes.
Like many Autistic adults, I have pretty bad anxiety. Meditation isn't a miracle cure, not by any stretch, but it calms me down a little. One more tool in the box is always handy, in any case.
I speak, metaphorically.
Because I have the time and energy and platform to do so, I can tell my stories to anyone who'll listen. I can tell people how oral speech doesn't matter that much to me, that whatever they might imagine being unable to speak is like (for the folks who have to imagine), that's probably not how it is for me.
Here's the thing:
I don't actually care when speech gives out on me, not in itself. I might be annoyed about the reason, like when flickering lights gets me. I might be frustrated if it's disproportionately hitting one activity (sorry, measure theory.) I might be scared if I'm around people whose reactions to speech going offline are as yet unknown, because sometimes people do react poorly. I might need to think about the logistical question of how best to communicate without speech, if it's the first time I've needed to in a given environment.
These are all different from being upset about the inability to speak. Some of them boil down to being upset about ableism, whether about access barriers or about biases against people who don't speak with their mouths. Even the logistical question could fit under that category, since there'd already be an easy answer if society were really set up for people who don't speak orally.
My concern about disproportionately losing speech during one particular class I'm less certain on how to classify. Partially, as much as the professor and my classmates seem to be totally fine about my not always being able to speak and my writing on the side board instead when I can't, I'm worried about what they're going to think. As a teaching assistant, I teach a class, face-to-face. As much as I know teaching without speech can be done, as much as I know people who do it, I haven't done it yet. Not classroom teaching with 30-50 students in a lecture, while I can't talk.
I've done tutoring without speech, and I gave a conference presentation without speech, but I've not done regular classroom teaching without speech yet and I don't really want my colleagues wondering how I would manage that until after I've got an answer I know works.
Whatever it is, it's still not finding the inability to speak inherently frustrating. And I've solved the logistical questions for most of the environments I spend much time in.
And here's what I don't do:
I don't purposefully avoid methods of communication I know I can use, and effectively. I don't think that doing so would teach me what it's like not to be able to use those methods, because times when speech is working fine but I am choosing not to speak for some reason (someone else is talking, sore throat, not actually having anything to say) are very different from the times when speech isn't working.
That's what Communication Shutdown would have been, and it's what taking an hour of silence (at a time you choose, too!) to try and understand what it's like not to always being able to speak would be.