Using both AAC and Spoken Words.

Image of poster saying, Yes I speak and I use AAC It's my voice, my choice.

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.

Image of a Tweet by @spacedoutsmiles

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.


Image of a Tweet re not being verbal due to overload


Image of Tweet about not getting mouth words to work

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.

Image of Tweet about switching communication between spoken and AAC

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.

Image of a Tweet re POkemon by @autisticdoggirl

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.  

Link to Yes, I Speak Poster


Kathryn Helland

Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist and works with children and adults with complex communication needs. She has been with the TechOWL team since 2015 and is currently working on her doctorate. She would like to examine how to best support AAC users in higher education.

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