1. rhythmic-idealist
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    rhythmic-idealist New Member

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    How can I design a character who cannot speak or sign?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by rhythmic-idealist, Nov 26, 2015.

    I want to note that I’m going to be asking about physical/learning/developmental disabilities and conditions, as well as autism, and I hope I’ve been as respectful as possible but if I’m getting anything wrong please let me know. I’m here to learn, after all.

    The character in question is an eleven-year-old boy. For the sake of his character and the plot as a whole, he needs to be unable to communicate via spoken, signed, or written language. I know that there are some conditions which affect both ability to speak and fine motor function, but I can’t find enough information on any of them. I want to possibly write him as autistic, which is something I do have a decent knowledge of, but I don’t know if it’s possible or likely that this would affect his ability to sign/write. As another note, I do still want him to be able to walk, with or without assistive devices.

    As another note, simple answers are fine and very much appreciated, and I’ll use them as a jumping off point, but if you could expand at all that would be wonderful. How would this particular condition affect his life outside of communication? The protagonist becomes his main aide, what would she need to assist him with?
     
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  2. rhythmic-idealist
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    rhythmic-idealist New Member

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    I am also considering cerebral palsy, which I forgot to include in the original post, but any other suggestions or comments on this would be awesome, I don't know too much about it.
     
  3. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    How about selective mutism? He would not talk, and if he doesn't know how, they're not going to sign either. He could still write, but maybe he doesn't know how to do that either, due to poverty or something. The other character would need to figure out his wants and needs, but other than that, he would not need much assistance.
    If someone is a non-verbal autistic, they will also be unlikely to care for themselves in almost any capacity. I don't know exactly what you want for your character, so I don't know if this works or not.
     
  4. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    If you create a character with severe autism, it's unlikely that they're going to be able to do much if they're completely incapable of communications.

    Perhaps there could be some previous trauma in the characters life that causes him to refuse to speak/sign/write. I know sometimes severe psychological damage could cause that. This way, you can have him be physically capable of whatever you want him to do, but still have such limitations. The sidekick could learn how to read his facial expressions and body language to help him. I would think that he would be able to do everything for himself (i.e. feed, cloth, bathe, conduct himself in public, etc). He just won't talk to anyone.

    A difficulty in writing this character is that you would have to find some way to explain it to the reader, without going into boring detail. Maybe have the narrator find some old forms or something from previous psych visits detailing the troubles/incident. Also, it might be difficulty thinking of a particular awful thing to happen that would cause this particular problem.

    Interesting Links:
    Traumatic Brain Injury: Cognitive and Communication Disorders
    Wikipedia: Communication Disorders
    Traumatic Brain Injury
    Behavioral/Emotional Injuries (TBI)

    Just google communication disorders/problems. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015
  5. SilentDreamer
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    SilentDreamer Member

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    TBI can cause language difficulties that may also cross over into losing the ability to read, and control one's hands.

    Selective Mutism could work.
    There is also another condition - the person with said condition can function as usual - care for and dress themselves, but is unable to speak, due to a rare brain malformation called Polymicrogia. Here's a link to the blog written by the father of a 16 yr old with this condition - Fighting Monster's With Rubber Swords
     
  6. misteralcala
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    misteralcala Member

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    Agitation - fidgeting or expressing a "tic" - a nervous compulsive habit, like rocking back and forth, screaming etc.

    Anger - self-harming (biting, slapping etc.), full-on "body on the floor" flailing tantrum.

    Sadness - a need to be comforted or cuddled, curling up into a ball or some other self-soothing behavior.

    Excitement - whooping, smiling, etc.

    Just because characters can't express themselves through vocal or sign language doesn't mean they can't convey emotion. Use their posture, temperament, non-verbal vocalizations, facial expressions and eccentric habits and tics to convey those emotions.
     

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