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TimMy name is Tim. I am 18 years old with a Chinese Australian background. I have moderately severe autism, diagnosed when I was 3 years old. I have limited speech and a lot of mannerisms such as humming, flapping my hands, and lying on the floor when I get too stressed out. It was easy to see I needed a lot of support just to function on a daily basis.

From when I was first diagnosed at 3, I had weekly private speech therapy. In addition, there was an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) or intensive educational home program with a number of therapists. The first speech therapist also supervised the ABA program for the first few months before a psychologist took over. The speech therapist was still seeing me weekly for several years. I also did some ABA and had speech therapy at special school which I went for 2 years before moving to mainstream school full time in Grade 2. Thereafter, I was taken to another speech therapist for about 3 years.

My world at the time of diagnosis was very chaotic. I understood very little of what was going on around me with people's speech perceived as mostly babble. Together with ABA, speech therapy helped to link the spoken and written part of language to the things signified. The speech therapist also helped me in voice output by using her fingers to shape my lips and jaws to make the sounds of speech. All these help me to understand that by using speech, people were telling me things, and I was able to tell them things in return too. This part of talking is called communication and turn taking and it took me some time to understand these vital functions.

In Grade 3 and 4, I was taken to see another private speech therapist who worked with me on talking using games, both with real objects and on the computer. I had to ask for things I wanted before I was given the toys and games. This method, called 'communication temptation' helped me to use speech to ask for things I want, and taught me about initiating requests and making comments.

I also worked with a speech therapist for about 1 year when I was 12. This speech therapist devised throwing and catching games with toys which helped me with spontaneous speech by using these visual objects as cues. Nowadays, I do and can communicate, although it is not usually through speech. My preferred mode of communication involves typing my message. This is an example of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) which I first learned to do when I was in Grade 3, about 9 years old. It has always been laborious for me to speak, so I use my AAC system for more effective communication.

I believe that without the means to communicate, people with limited speech or with complex communication needs like me, are reduced to mere shadows, without the right to claim their humanity. Learning to use a form of communication (for me, it is AAC with some spoken words) with the help of professionals and the family was a huge watershed that enable other people to acknowledge me as an intelligent person who is basically similar to them. With a means to communicate I can take part in things which are meaningful and can live a richer life.