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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.

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

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Monday, September 15, 2014

"But AAC Increases Speech!"

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.


  1. AAC taking away speech is a lot like vaccines taking away allism. First of all, so what? and second, total bullshit, no it doesn't.

  2. I don't know if you actually want to hear an answer to the questions you pose, because I can never tell these things ;) but, I can think of 2 reasons why people would have a problem with a person relying on AAC for communication.
    1) the device can break down
    2) people are used to speech as communication. And let's face it, all communication always is a balance between the effort person A puts in to make themselves understood and the effort person B puts in to understand. (My philosophy of language teacher once said "I'd like it if I could just say 'ugh' and you understand the entire class, but it just doesn't work that way"). And frankly people never want to make any effort to understand someone, so everything has to go the way they're used to, which includes oral speech.

    Oh, and I just realised, probably 3) using AAC makes you so 'visibly impaired' and for some people that is the end of the world.

    1. I didn't have a particular opinion on people answering or not, in this case. But since you did, cool.
      1) Yeah, that's a legit worry. Of course, speech can also break down, so I'm not sure how that's different. (I don't avoid speech because it can break down, but I do plan to reduce the bad results of it breaking down.)
      2) I mean, yes. But the second part of this one is where I take issue (and if tone is at all accurate, it sounds like you might too?) People never wanting to make any effort to understand someone, the effort all being on the side of the person trying to be understood. I don't think that's OK. (Also, BS on people who say they are ONLY used to oral speech, folks are totally used to blog and emails and texting nowadays)
      3) Sadly, that's actually probably the bigger one, unless it's the unwilling to do ANY effort part of 2.

  3. Yeah. My favorite example is Deaf signers vs orally-trained deaf people. Piles and piles of research shows that by training deaf kids to speak & read lips and not sign, you set the kid up for serious, life-long struggles with communication and with communication-related skills. Meanwhile, if you use a combined oral & sign method, most of these kids seem to mainly ignore the oral component and use sign only - but they experience far less severe delays in communication and related skills.

  4. Hi, I'm a grad student about to be an SLP. A lot of parents at our campus clinic think that if we are recommending AAC that we are recommending a kid be set on a bad "track" at school. This is particularly true with parents who don't speak fluent English, cause they are used to their kids getting second-rate stuff. There are also the still-here people lying that ASL delays English acquisition. So we are used to being on the defensive on the subject.

    Also, there's so little in speech that is supported by a real solid body of evidence so we crow about something we've actually proven :p

    1. Those are all sensible things. (I still don't like that not-speech is the scary thing, but in an environment where it is, and where the false claims are going around, defending the fact that AAC increases speech makes sense.)


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