Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Monday, December 10, 2012

When can I take away the AAC device?

Trigger Warning: mention of bombs, death, and silencing of disabled people

The short answer is "never," or close enough to it that you are extremely unlikely to run into a situation where it really is appropriate to take a non-speaking person's AAC device away. See, it's not like a person who chooses to go into a foreign country where they don't speak the language and immerse themselves. That's an OK thing to do- by the choice of the person who is going. It's different because it's a choice by the person who is doing it themselves, and it's different because in an immersion environment, there are generally other people around who at least understand the original language that we went in already speaking. In the case of an emergency, there is a "panic button" of reverting to the language you already know. When you take away a person's AAC device, there is no such panic button.
Taking away an AAC device is not OK in much the same ways that dropping a person in a country where they don't speak the language against their will is not OK and in much the same ways that gagging a person is generally not considered OK.
It's limiting (sometimes almost completely preventing) communication without the consent of the person whose communication is being limited, and without an emergency way to communicate.
The only time that preventing one form of communication while teaching another is OK is when this is by the decision of the person who is learning the new form. It's not acceptable as a matter of course for trying to teach someone to talk. AAC is meant for allowing people to communicate, and that is how it should be treated- the same way we would treat a person's ability to speak if they could.
But "Why can't I take away an AAC device?" wasn't the question here, was it? The question was "When can I take away an AAC device." Here's when:
  • If the AAC device is one that necessarily makes sound and the need for quiet is such that gagging a person capable of speech would be acceptable (meaning it's almost certainly a life or death need for silence, like in a war or something,) yes, go ahead. You can take it away then.
  • If there is a complete blackout (again, probably a war or something) and the device either creates light or uses electricity, yes, go ahead. You can take it away then.
  • If someone else wired it up so that turning the AAC device on would cause a dangerous explosion, yes, go ahead. You can take it away then. (You still need to go find a new AAC device for this person while you wait for the bomb squad.)
  • Basically, if the use of this AAC device is legitimately going to get someone killed, yes, go ahead. You can take it away then.
Short of that, no, it is not acceptable to take away a person's AAC device. A person can go put their own AAC device somewhere, but you can't tell them to do it. You can't even ask them to do it, not with the way that so many of us are trained that requests are really orders in disguise. No matter how sure you are that this specific person hasn't been trained that way, nope, you still can't ask.
So often, we talk about needing to meet people half way. Well, when a person is using AAC to communicate, they have already come well over half way. Don't you dare complain about your less than half, and don't you dare take the device away for anything short of life or death matters.


  1. Thinking the very same thing, A. If you haven't read my story about a friend, it's on my blog entitled: "Use Your Words: Non-verbal, Speech, and AAC. The situation disturbs me greatly. It puts me in a moral dilemma for which I can see no answer. Appreciate any advice you have.

    1. This was semi in response to that, actually. I think that should tell you what I think the moral answer is. How to achieve it? Not so sure.

  2. I have to agree, the idea of removing a form of communication to force someone to attempt to communicate in another way? That is pretty much the opposite of helpful. With my son, we have various methods for him to communicate. He has his device, he has PECS, he even has some speech now. He won't sign, so I let that slide. I figure, the more methods he has, the more likely he is to want to communicate. He isn't going to magically start talking in coherent sentences if I take away every other method he has of communicating. He will return to silence. If I silence his voice, I will lose his input. He deserves to be heard. Everyone deserves to be heard, by whatever means does the job.

  3. Absolutely! The first year that H was using AAC some teachers would take it away if he happened to be talking/typing about something other than the lesson.Many verbal students talk when they are not "supposed to" during class, but teachers don't duct tape their mouths. It is equivalent to taking the person's voice. I really don't understand how anyone would think this is acceptable.

  4. This is a really good post.

    I must *still* have some naive, unfounded faith in people because it hadn't occurred to me that people would be anxious to take away other people's AAC devices! It just makes no sense! The device is there because the person needs it to communicate; why would you take it away from them??


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