Nonspeaking, in the context of this neurodivergent glossary, describes autistic people who have a few or no words that they are able to communicate verbally. This used to be known as nonverbal but this is no longer a term that is as widely used. This is largely because nonverbal means ‘without words’ and there are many nonspeaking autistic people who communicate very effectively using other means, given the opportunity – see Murray’s story for an excellent example.

Those people who speak a little – up to around 30 words – are sometimes described as minimally verbal.

An autistic person who is nonspeaking is very likely to understand what they are hearing, and may desperately want to reply, it’s just that the body doesn’t respond to the mind’s wishes. All the replies are there, it’s just finding a way to communicate them with speech that is the problem, thought to be due to interference in neural pathways. This particular presentation of nonspeaking is a co-occurring condition called¬†apraxia of speech.

You might also find it helpful to read the entries on:

and selective mutism, to see the difference between these.