Communication beyond Speech – part 1

“Motivate to communicate,
Pay attention on potential growth, speech is highly recreational”

-Joseph kurian

This blog is unique for a reason- Authors of TALKING FINGERS have contributed their thoughts to the most discussed topic of Communication Vs Speech.

For unversed, Talking Fingers is a book co-authored by sixteen non-speaking autistics from across India. They have proved that “PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN SWORD”, if given a proper mode of communication. One can get a small glimpse of their thoughts in the blog. Hope you all like it!!!

As part of my volunteering with Nayi Disha, I get to interact with lot of young parents. What I find common in every query is “When will my child SPEAK?”

Speech is great but communication is more valuable for Sanjith. In the opinion of Navneet, Speech is a form of communication where oral motor skills are used to express thoughts and needs whereas communication is a complete process of understanding language and decoding it in different mode in the form of non verbal and verbal means.

So are we really looking for speech or communication?
Other day, a dad was telling me that since his kid is not speaking, she will not understand anything that is being taught. Is it really so?

As described by Aratrik Dey, Speech is only a mode of communication not the measure of intelligence.

There are non-speaking autistics who are writing books, attending conferences, advocating for entire fraternity. At other end, we have parents who still think that “Non-Speaking is non-thinking” . For those parents, our suggestion would be please look beyond speech.

According to Nishant, speech is only one way of communicating-there are many ways that we all use-gestures, expressions, writing and text- it is important to make communication accessible to ALL by accepting all ways. Adding to Nishant’s statement, Akshat says that communication is meaningful to express mind thoughts whether you have speech or not. It is the way to impart information through writing/behaviour as per Aadi.

They don’t see enough motivation in conventional speech therapy where the kid has to keep on saying “Pa”, “Ba”, “Ma” so on. When my motivation is cookie, what’s the point in teaching other sounds?

And as Aditi rightly puts it, speech is a mere remix of the dictionary and communication is the structure the gives meaning to the words.

Some kids have basic sounds and parents want to develop speech around those sounds. There is nothing wrong in it. But how much does other person actually understand what the kid is trying to convey? One cannot lead an entire life with few words. Some might wonder how speech is different from communication?

As Sarrvajeet mentions, speech is restricted to Mouth and Throat whereas communication is a broader concept and term where facial expressions and body language play a major role.

Also kids need to develop conversation, give their opinions on various topics, should be able to make a decision for themselves and above all, they should feel COMPETENT. All these wouldn’t possible with few sounds/words.

In Tarun Paul’s words, communication frankly happens much more frequently and fluently than we even realise, binding humanity with its power, whilst speech is highly overrated and misused.

Our kids need more of Communication Therapists than SLPs. A communication therapist should be able to use various AAC (Augmentive and Alternative Communication) modes. Some use picture based, some use technology based and some use gestures. Few of the popular AAC are listed below.
PECS has got more to do with Picture based Communication. One can go through to know more about PECS.
Some like Avaz, Proloquo2go, Jellow are technology based AAC.
There is also something called S2C (Spell2Communicate). It is gaining momentum in western countries and is based on establishing communication through spelling on alphabet boards. Read about S2C on
Ability to express is everyone’s right whether child is speaking or non-speaking.

As per Tarun Verma, communication is not only speech; everyone need to understand and respect the various modes.

When right mode is presented to child, they would feel competent and one can witness a confident kid whether in school or gatherings or in family itself!!

Anudeep says-Speech is the way most of us convey our thoughts but to express love, empathy and understanding, communication is the universal language.

So next time when you ask reframe the question to when will my kid communicate?”

To know more about the book and authors, please watch the discussion video below on “Communication beyond Speech”. One can get to see the introduction of all authors (in their own words) along with a panel discussion moderated by prominent Special Educator Ms. Simmi Vasu. The panel consisted of Veteran Special Educator Ms. Padma Ramani along with Ms. Vijaya Mary (Journalist from Hindu) and Ms.Anjana Satyabodha (Founder of Subodha and SLP who believes in multi modal communication). All the three have read and reviewed the book on various mediums. Also listen to the editors of Talking Fingers Ms.Padma Jyothi (parent blogger), Ms. Chitra Paul (Founder, All Inclusive Foundation) and Ms.Rashmi (Hindi edition translator) about their lived experiences while editing book. Heading everyone is Ms. Shilpi Mayank Awasti, founder of Special Saathi.

Recordings of the panel discussion:

Communication beyond speech discussion on the book Talking Fingers (part 1)
Communication beyond speech discussion on the book Talking Fingers (part 2)

And last but not the least, don’t forget to order your copy on amazon.
For English edition
For Hindi edition-
It would be a great if you can leave a review too!!!
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Written by-

Prashanthi Vankamamidi and authors of Talking Fingers
(Authors who contributed in this blog- Anudeep, Aditi, Aratrik, Akshat, Aadi, Navneet, Nishant, Sarrvajeet, Sanjith, Tarun Verma, Tarun Paul)

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Morpheus Nag

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