Nonspeaking Autistics Can No Longer Show Restraint about Restraints

The recent release of Sia’s movie Music has stirred controversy and debate with and among the nonspeaking autistic community: my community. The uproar has subsided, but the conversation should not.

So let’s talk. 

As a neurotypical: What if your actions were so misconstrued that you were physically subdued against your will, forcefully, even brutally? What if this happened not once, not twice, but again and again? What if this happened in front of your friends? What if this happened minus any witnesses because you were isolated in a solitary confinement of sorts? What if no one even bothered to ask you what was up, why you were acting in such a way? What if no one asked you your opinion about helping to prevent it? What if they didn’t seem to have any reservations about manhandling you, restraining you? What if this was business as usual for them, no apologies or remorse? What if they maybe even thought you deserved it? 

Would you accuse them of harassment? Would you charge them with assault? Would you take out a ‘restraining order’ against them? (Poetic justice, that last one…)  

Short of the last three options, this scenario unfortunately and misguidedly plays out way too often for way too many nonspeaking autistics. Nonspeakers are routinely mislabeled as ‘behavior problems’ and just as routinely mistreated with restraint and seclusion. Let me remind you: We are not animals. We are not monsters. We are not criminals. We are not insane. Even if we were, is this inhumane treatment necessary? 

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM, Restraint, Restraining,

So aside from who we aren’t, let me spell out who we are. First and foremost we are human beings. We are people, citizens deserving dignity, respect, and the same rights as the rest of humanity. We are neurodiverse, yes, but this doesn’t make us any less equal, just different. Our brains work differently. We are simply square pegs that don’t fit into neurotypical round holes. And we’re ok with that. We embrace our squareness so let us be square. But remaining square in a round world requires some basic respect, understanding, and acceptance.

We need to be heard. We need to be listened to. We are the experts on us. 

So hear this: Stop talking about our ‘behaviors’ as misbehaviors. Start trying to understand that we have significant motor and body control issues on any given day. These issues, if combined with sensory and emotional sensitivities in an unsupported environment, are bound to bubble up and overtake us at times.

Can this look like a tantrum? Yes.
Can this look like a meltdown? Yes.
Can this even look like an explosion? Yes. 


Is it deliberate? No.
Is it intentional? No.
Are we horrified when it happens? Yes.
Are we mortified, embarrassed, and humiliated? Yes, yes, and yes.
Do we wish we could somehow stop ourselves? Yes.

The real question becomes are there other ways to handle these situations besides restraining and secluding our bodies? IT STARTS WITH NO LONGER RESTRAINING OUR MINDS AND VOICES. We are the ones with solutions. We have the answers. We are the ones who can partner with the world to temper and support our body responses when they become overblown, maybe even prevent it. We can eliminate this misguided scenario, together. 

Why can’t you listen to us? Why won’t you listen to us? Would you have to admit you’ve been wrong? That you’ve been complicit in heinous practices at our expense? Are you trying to justify the traumatizing consequences with good intentions? Looking in the mirror can be hard. Truth can be brutal. But not as brutal as physically subduing us, isolating us, silencing us. 

Because that is what the world is doing to us and somehow it’s ok. 

Does the world not cry out for tolerance? Isn’t bullying unacceptable? Isn’t discrimination a crime, a human rights abuse? Or is this just applicable to race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion? But not to nonspeaking autism. Not to square pegs.

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM, Restraint, Restraining,Noah Seback is a nonspeaker but NOT a nonthinker or nonfeeler. He lives in Atlanta with his family where his mission is to open hearts and minds to the neurodiversity of nonspeaking autistics like himself. Check out his blog at


The mission of I-ASC is to advance communication access for nonspeaking individuals globally through trainingeducationadvocacy and research I-ASC supports all forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with a focus on methods of spelling and typing. I-ASC currently offers Practitioner training in Spelling to Communicate (S2C)with the hope that other methods of AAC using spelling or typing will join our association

Posted By on Wednesday, March 24th, 2021 in Advocacy,Autism,Families,Motor,Nonspeakers,S2C,Spelling to Communicate

6 responses to “Nonspeaking Autistics Can No Longer Show Restraint about Restraints”

  1. Kari Nyland says:

    I came to your blog this morning because yesterday I spoke with the parent of a nonspeaking, 18-year-old who is being fitted for a full body bus harness. The nonspeaking young adult is being considered for expulsion from school because of “behavior issues.” The nonspeaking young adult currently has no reliable way to communicate. Your blog NAILS IT. Thank you! I am in awe of your choice of words and your analogies. I’m hopeful your blog will help change the behavior of “well-meaning” adults in power.

  2. Sharon Fair says:

    How would this work in a hospital setting where my son is constantly physically “taken down” and drugged to stop him from screaming. He is just scared. Last time he got a deviated septum and they re-broke his cheekbone that a deputy broke when he punched my son. It never ends.

    • I-ASC says:

      We are deeply sorry to hear this. Perhaps you can share this article with the hospital staff to help them learn about the trauma and injury that is caused by restraint.

  3. Sandy Nutley says:

    Your voice is heard. I believe in what you shared. I believe that you can teach many on this topic . I will share your article to my circle of professionals and parents. Your ROCK!

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