Wisdom of a Young Speller with Patrick Saunders

Passionate, young, Autistic advocate, Patrick Saunders, is a 14-year-old, non-speaking teenager with a lot to say.

Growing up, Patrick couldn’t talk reliably and stopped talking almost altogether when he was nine year’s old. At the age of seven he started to learn how to communicate using a letterboard and found his spellers voice around 12 years of age.

In this insightful webinar he shares his views from the social model of disability to his hopes for the future.

Patrick’s blog, ‘What I Wish People Understood About Non-Speaking Autistics Who Spell to Communicate’ is available here.



My name is Patrick Saunders and I’m a non-speaker who communicates with a letterboard. I am Autistic and I love to spell, bush walk, listen to and watch music, swim and move. I am 14 years old.

Patrick spells using letterboard:

A letterboard helps me communicate and get my needs and wants met.


I always want people to treat me like a human being and provide me with opportunities and choices like everyone else.

Patrick spells using letterboard:

When I go into the city tonight I want to eat hot chips.


I am not happy about the medical model os disability because I am not broken. I am unique and have an amazing mind that thinks differently. I am wonderful just the way I am.

Travis (Patrick’s father):

If you could spell anything to people about being non speaking what would it be?

Patrick spells using letterboard:

I would spell presume competence.


I prefer the social model of disability because I have differences and I do not require a cure. I am proud of myself and don’t need someone telling me I am a medical problem.


What is it that you’d spell out, Patrick, to those people who don’t believe that you can spell?

Patrick spells using letterboard:

I would spell open your eyes.


I want to change the world and help people like us, and create a world where people accept people like us.


Patrick’s blog, ‘What I Wish People Understood About Non-Speaking Autistics Who Spell to Communicate’, is available now at reframingautism.org.au

If you would like to contact Patrick or follow his journey please head to Patrick’s website thestoryspeller.com





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The Reframing Autism team would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we have the privilege to learn, work, and grow. Whilst we gather on many different parts of this Country, the RA team walk on the land of the Birpai, Awabakal, Wattamattagal, Whadjak, Amangu, Bunurong and Kaurna Yarta peoples.

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