Technically Speaking


Photo by Christina Yang


At first glance, senior Megan Lueking seems no different from any other CHS student: she has a job, dreams of being a psychology professor someday, and enjoys going to McDonald’s for a “cheap date” with best friend junior Grace “Gracie” Hamilton. She loves to read—and she loves to type. Because Lueking has non-verbal autism, typing is what allows her to communicate.

Lueking certainly isn’t alone; according to Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about autism, approximates 25 percent of people with autism are non-verbal.

For Lueking, non-verbal autism manifests itself into a physical force that prevents her from acting the way she intends.

“I have a part of me that I hate,” Lueking said. “(Autism) is my opponent. I think it makes me not able to communicate.”


Senior Megan Lueking

Photo by Christina Yang



Hamilton, Lueking’s best buddy and close friend, said Lueking often describes it as a struggle between her mind and body.

“She is in her body, and her mind works differently, but she’s still very smart. But she can’t make her body move in the way that society thinks bodies should move. She will shake her hands and move her head around, and that’s not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to sit there silently, make eye contact with people, and she just can’t do that,” Hamilton said.

Jim Smyth, co-founder of Saved By Typing, a local organization dedicated to advocating facilitated communication and supporting individuals learning to type, said many individuals with non-verbal autism face the same struggles as Lueking when it comes to conforming to society’s expectations of them.


“Society takes away, at the youngest age, who you are going to be and says ‘You’re autistic. So you’re never going to be this, never going to do that’… All of society (is convinced) that they have the mind of a 2 or 3-year-old,” Smyth said.

Facilitated communication, however, allows Lueking to partially overcome the her non-verbal autism through typing. A facilitator pulls back on Lueking’s arm while she types, providing the resistance she needs in order to focus her mind on the muscles she needs to type out a word. Without the assistance of a facilitator, it is very difficult for Lueking to type.


Grace “Gracie” Hamilton

Photo by Christina Yang

Lueking’s future plan

Photo by Christina Yang


Hamilton said she believes CHS students should at least make an effort to communicate with Lueking.

“Just try and make an effort with Meg,” Hamilton said. “She doesn’t make eye contact, or shake her head ‘yes,’ so I can get how people think she’s not listening … So nobody really makes an effort to be her friend. It’s really hard, because she wants community, and she’s not able to get that because she can’t talk.”

Lueking cannot communicate with her peers at school. She can’t tell them that it is her autism that forces her to take their iPhones and iPads, bite her hands, or say certain things she doesn’t necessarily mean. She can’t tell them that she is very intelligent, and is tired of constantly being babied. She can’t tell them that she hates it when people talk as if she isn’t there at all, simply because she can’t reply.

 

“I want to tell people that I am in here and I hear everything,” Lueking said.


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Alanna Wu