“Music, touch, smiles – they all tell a story if we pay attention. Without speech, we have to use all our senses to connect on a more direct level”. Rami Kripke–Ludwig
”… I found my voice through pointing on my board. It was so frustrating (before then) to not be able to tell anyone how I felt. So I often hurt myself and did destructive things. It was a very painful time in my life”. Rhema
”We function differently in mind and body. As a visual thinker, everything comes into my head as pictures. It was not until four years of age that I discovered that people use speech to communicate. I have worked hard to learn to use language and to communicate by typing with support”. Tim Chan
These words – the experiences and opinions of young Autistic adults who communicate non-verbally through Augmentative and Alternative communication methods, are as diverse as the Autism itself and as valid and important as spoken communication.
Ten Facts about Augmentative & Alternative Communication
🔸 Everyone communicates non-verbally. That means everyone, including you, uses Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
🔸 Examples of AAC are gesturing, pointing, facial expression, behaviour, writing, texting and email, drawing, sign language, using communication cards, communication boards, picture symbol systems and speech generating devices.
🔸 Many are non-speaking. This means we are still developing, or do not have, the ability to communicate through speech. For non-speaking people, non-verbal communication – AAC – is the only way to communicate.
🔸 There are many neurological differences and physical conditions which can influence a persons ability to develop verbal speech including Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Acquired Brain Injury, Ataxia / Dyspraxia, Stroke and Developmental Language Delays.
🔸 Research studies shows that introducing and using AAC facilitates, not hinders, development of verbal speech. This means introducing AAC to a child who has physical and developmental ability to develop verbal speech will support that child in their verbal speech development.
🔸 Many people with verbal communication challenges, who also have motor planning or certain sensory differences use a communication partner (sometimes called a communication facilitator) to physically support them in learning and using AAC.
🔸 Language and communication are not the same thing. Language is the mutually understood codes and symbols that we use to share meaning about an object, thing or emotion. Communication is the method that we use to express the shared language code.
🔸 There are many interesting articles and blogs written by non-speaking Autistic people about language and AAC. Some examples include Tim Chan, Idor Kedar, and Amy Sequenzia. An in-depth I am Cadence article on speech, language and communication development Autistics can be found here.
🔸 There are many videos by non-speaking Autistic people that demonstrate their AAC and share their experiences of about their life as an Autistic person who communicates non- verbally. Two informative examples include Ben, Huan and Emma talking about education rights here, and Tim Chan’s TEDx presentation here.
🔸 All forms of communication are valid and important. Verbal speech ability does not, in itself, equal effective communication. Non-verbal communication, or AAC, does not equal inability to communicate effectively.