AAC is not simply for those who cannot speak. That’s why it’s called Augmentative and Alternative Communication. On Twitter, I have encountered several autistic adults who speak and use AAC. They have a lot to say and I am learning from them.
And, yes, I am using disability first language here because it is preferred by the people I am citing. It is their choice.
Many have heard of the Spoons Theory of disability or chronic illness. People with limited energy to interact with the world (a limited number of ‘spoons’), may run out of spoons if they do too much, or are faced with an overwhelming situation. At such times, what is often interpreted as “behavior”, is rather the inability to use spoken language to communicate in that context.
When someone with autism runs out of spoons, spoken language may not be an option. At these times, AAC can be a necessary means of communication. This may take the form of texting, writing a message, using picture symbols, or an AAC app. None of these avenues of communication is ‘wrong’, or less. Each is simply a different means of achieving communication.
We all have differing abilities depending upon our state of health, or physical fatigue. We all rely on different tools to meet our needs in such times. How often have you thought, “I really don’t have the energy to talk to so & so, I’ll just send them a text.”
AAC may also augment communication for someone who is unintelligible to strangers, or support someone with word finding difficulties. Many people with autism may also suffer from apraxia, an inability to program their muscles to produce “mouth words”. I highly recommend the article, “A Backdoor Approach to Autism and AAC”, by Pat Mirenda.
Everyone has something to say. We need to listen to the person and respect the means they choose to use.