Communicating is f’in hard, so hard it’s worthy of a swear word, albeit an edited one. I’m not talking about all forms of communicating here, I’m mostly focussing on verbal communication, which isn’t the same as speaking. Anyone can say some words, but putting words together in a way that makes sense in order to convey meaning.
So, why is communicating hard? Well, for any PDAer, communicating verbally is a demand. And as we know demands are very difficult to accomplish. So, even if we know what to say, and how to convey it verbally in a way that both gets our message across and will be understood by the recipient, we still struggle to actually say words because that inbuilt mechanism that stops us doing just about anything stops us from speaking.
I personally struggle with saying people’s names and titles. It’s just as well I don’t like in Japan or some other country which uses honorifics. I can’t say Sir or Madam, Teacher or Doctor. I have to rely on either waiting to be noticed or muttering “um” or “excuse me”, even with family and friends. This makes starting a conversation hard, never mind the rest of it.
I also struggle to say the name of things, and will resort to describing the thing in order to communicate what it is that I’m talking about. Just saying one word can be too hard of a demand to overcome, it’s like wading through mud.
Even without demands, communicating is hard for PDAers. Why? because we are Autistic. And as you may know, Autism comes with difficulty in communication. Social communication is a big problem, but there’s also the difficulty in knowing what it is we want to say, how to say it, the tone of voice to use, and knowing whether our message has been understood. Some Autistics are non-verbal, some use scripting to communicate so unless they have a script for every thing they wish to communicate they may not be able to communicate a need. Some are selective mutes, so they cannot speak at certain times or in certain places, no matter how hard they try. Some speak in monotone which makes it difficult to convey emotion and urgency. Some don’t know when they have shared too much information or what is important to convey and what’s not. Some communicate by going over every event that has happened to them that day, bring unable to translate that information into a story that’s condensed.
Even if an Autistic/PDAer is able to communicate very well, they may not be able to communicate everything. Communicating needs such as pain or hunger, communicating emotions and feelings, communicating something new or abstract, are all extremely difficult for Autistics/PDAers. While some may seem ‘NT normal’ and be able to hold conversations, they will still struggle to communicate in many ways. This is where the PDA trait of ‘seeming sociable but lacking depth’ applies.
Asking for help, letting others know how they feel, when they are in pain, sharing their thoughts on things, explaining why they did something, recounting their day, being able to use the ‘right’ words, knowing what not to say, and many more that may be specific to each individual. These are all difficult to do.
So when some parents say “why didn’t they just tell us” or “why can’t they just tell me what’s wrong/what they need” or “why can’t they communicate properly”, they forget that the person is trying as hard as they can. It’s not that they won’t but that they can’t.