The Experience of Apraxia as a Moment of Wonder and/or Terror

There are all sorts of symptoms of autism – various language processing and production difficulties, coordination and executive function problems, social performance issues – that get medicalized as constant state experiences. Some symptoms can certainly be constant. Some autistic people have always and will always have trouble with vocal speech, for instance. But if you read the literature, you might come away with the idea that an autistic individual either has apraxia or doesn’t. That is, if they can speak here and now, they can simply speak.

But the experience of autism is also one that changes depending on many environmental and social cues. It changes depending on whether we are tired, or hungry, whether our clothes itch a bit or there’s too much noise. We may find our ability to talk suddenly taken away by someone’s comment. We may not even realize at first that our voices are gone as we try to formulate a response, noticing it’s taking a bit longer for the words to appear before trying to speak and finding our brains can’t find our mouths. The muscles of the tongue and the vocal chords don’t seem to be able to coordinate their efforts. And as we notice this, we may forget what the words we were even planning to day. The ideas that fill our brains, based suddenly on every sound and touch connected with multiple strands of memory and just remembered dreams, do that strange thing where they all arrange in impossibly beautiful patterns and our hearts break to think we even tried to route their infinity into neatly delineated boxes of words.

And in the next moment, the topic has changed, and we may find that we can speak again, with only a small slip of the social mask as any indication of what had occurred.

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