A young Black girl stares at the camera holding a microphone and wearing an anxious expression. A zipper is over her mouth.

R-word and Genius: Situationally Mute Hyperlexic Autistic

When I was a kid, school didn’t know I could read because I wouldn’t read aloud. Situational mutism and exposure anxiety locked my lips.

One day, in a quiet corner with a semblance of psychological safety, I quietly, in a whisper, read a book cover to cover to my teacher and said, “Can I go now?”

I’m hyperlexic.

And autistic.

During my school career, I was both r-word and genius.

In a culture that conflates eye-reading with intelligence, my course and fortunes changed when school noticed that I could not only read, I could read anything. I went from being a full time r-word to a part time one, depending on who was in the room with me and if I felt safe enough speak.

R-word and genius. The difference in impressions is due to psychological safety, it’s presence and absence.

Autistic people are psychological safety barometers, and we’ve turned classrooms into a hell for autism.

Further reading,


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