Guest Post: “But AAC Increases Speech!”

Today’s guest post was written by Alyssa Hillary, an autistic activist and masters student who writes about autism related subjects. This post first appeared on Alyssa’s blog Yes, That Too and has been reprinted with permission. General information on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) can be found on the American Speech-Language Hearing Association website.


So this is one of the big arguments I see in favor of giving people who don’t talk, or who only talk a little, access to augmentative and alternative communication (or, as sometimes I think of it, maybe-actually-working communication. Because most of the time, if parents and teachers are considering AAC, that means that the communication that the person has is not working. Maybe it’s a matter of not knowing all the words, maybe it’s a matter of other people ignoring the behavior side, there’s always multiple sides in a communication breakdown but that doesn’t change the not-workingness.)

And people worry that if they let their kids use AAC, their kids won’t talk. Study after study shows the opposite, by the way, that if you do speech therapy type stuff and AAC stuff at the same time there’s both a better chance of speech and more speech than if there was only speech therapy stuff. Even just “we’re doing speech therapy, here’s an iPad AAC app too” increases speech more than just the speech therapy.


Here’s my question. Let’s say that a person did decide, after getting their AAC device, that they were done trying for speech. Let’s say that a person did decide that typing or picture cards or whatever else just worked better and they were done trying to make mouth sounds.


No, really.


Where is the problem with this?

If a person is happy with how their AAC device is letting them communicate, which means it’s working for them, why the insistence that they must also speak orally? Why the insistence that one method of communication is standard and ideal, while the other is, well, “alternative and augmentative.” Why is AAC even needing to deal with the accusation that it could reduce a person’s motivation to speak?

Cause I’m not going to lie. My motivation to speak is lower when I can just type. If I feel like I’m on the edge of speech going kaput, or speech is getting tougher, or whatever else? Once speech is an effort much of at all, if typing is an option I really do just go, “Screw it, I’m typing.” And I fail to see the problem with that! It’s me choosing the method of communication that works best for me, and that should be a good thing, not used as the reason to keep AAC out of people’s reach.

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