“A few years ago, Mitchell Robins wasn’t able to tell anyone precisely what he was thinking. He lost the ability to speak when he was 4 and relied primarily on a system of pictures and limited sign language to tell his parents and caregivers what he wanted to eat or when he felt sick or how he wanted to spend his time. Then his parents realized he could spell.
Now Mitchell, 17, communicates deliberately, pointing letter by letter to a board that displays the alphabet. Ask him a question and his expression will flit between deep concentration and a jovial grin as he slowly spells his answer. Mitchell, who has autism and is nonverbal, said using spelling-based communication has changed his life.
‘It changed everything because I could get my wants and needs met,’ he spelled during a recent interview at his home in Highland Park, curled up in a couch corner while one of his therapists held the board at his eye level. ‘I am very happy people are finally figuring out how to reach people like me because it is a human rights issue we need to solve.’”