When Mouth Words Aren't Enough
Most of us are familiar with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) being used when speech isn't an option for someone -- Stephen Hawking being a prime example. He lost his ability to speak due to a motor neuron disease, so he relied on technology to be his voice.
What about when someone can speak, but their speech doesn't do everything they want it to do?
Here are some quotes from part-time AAC users -- people who can speak but choose to use AAC to supplement their speech -- explaining why they choose to use AAC:
“My brain connects words better to my eyes and fingers than it does my mouth[.]”
“Speech isn’t functional unless it matches the words in your head.”
"My speech is not functional without AAC in the sense that I'm not able to have my needs met (for example, ask for help, explain what is wrong or what I need). I am also unable to show my higher level thinking.”
The above quotes come from a fascinating article from the Assistiveware website, When speech is unreliable: Part-time AAC use. Please check it out!
In my work as an SLP, I've known many clients who spoke but did not rely on their speech 100% of the time:
The teenage boy who, when asked what color he wanted, always said "red" out loud but would choose a huge variety of colors when given the chance to with his AAC device. His automatic speech got in the way of him expressing what he really wanted, and without AAC he would have been stuck in a world full of red everything. Red stickers, red legos, red balloons, red game pieces, red clothes. AAC opened up a whole rainbow of options to him.
The young man who used speech to express himself almost 90% of the time but used his AAC device to practice using new words before eventually speaking them out loud. AAC gave him the confidence to take risks with new words and expand his vocabulary far beyond what speech alone would have given him.
The little girl who loved to tell long, imaginative stories when she was well-regulated and calm -- but who needed AAC to express what was wrong and what kind of help she needed when she was overwhelmed or in pain.
How many of us choose to email or text someone instead of making a voice call when we're not feeling up to a long conversation? Or write out something long-hand when we really want to take our time and carefully compose our message?
We all choose from a variety of methods to express ourselves in our daily lives. Why not offer that same range of choices -- and more -- to those who struggle with communication?