Not long after I had posted about a cancer scare I was dealing with recently, I received a very interesting message from an SLP that I’ve been replaying in my head a lot.
“I don’t understand why you’re not verbal.”
They listed all the reasons why they thought I could be nonspeaking, and then asked if it was just because I was more comfortable communicating with a device – as if I needed to justify to a stranger why I use assistive technology.
[Friendly reminder once *again* that I use AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) primarily due to aphasia/brain damage and also autism.]
They then continued with “a device will never be as quick to communicate as a face-to-face conversation.”
At first, I brushed it off gently – thinking maybe I was more upset than usual due to being significantly stressed out.
But then I realized that this was an SLP disregarding the aphasia (brain damage) that I’d discussed before and reducing AAC to a less desirable form of communication.
Uh oh. Maybe that does need to be addressed.
One of the most unfortunate truths of AAC is that people see our communication as lesser. So much emphasis in the world is placed on powerful and charismatic speakers, those who have the ability to commandeer the ‘stage’.
Our society places mouth words on a pedestal; anyone who has difficulty communicating in the same way is immediately seen as “lacking” or in need of repair.
And for those of us who have been fortunate enough to find our ‘voices’ through other means (such as AAC), speaking people do not treat us well – especially when they struggle to comprehend that speech is either not possible or not ideal for everyone.
They think AAC is the easy way out, when it’s actually a lot of work and takes effort. I’d love to see some of these people try to work their way around a system and keep up with a conversation like they do to us.
Speech might be easiest for you – but I’m taking in every sight, sound, and movement around me. Even without the aphasia and brain injuries, that alone makes it hard.
Why not choose a way that makes communication more effective? I don’t have a choice due to the brain injuries these days, but even if I did – I’ll choose the option that lets my full thoughts actually be heard.
Speech alone has never done that, even when I was capable of it.
The comment about speed also threw me a bit, and I actually laughed when I read it.
As an AAC user, you can sometimes get much faster at typing and working the program – but should that even matter?
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that communication is not simply about how fast you can go.
It’s about connection, being able to convey what you truly wanted to say, and so much more. It’s an exchange of thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
AAC doesn’t restrict my ability to have conversations; it enhances it. That extra time forces us all to take a moment and find ourselves – and gives me the ability to be intentional in thought.
Sometimes, I think we all need that moment of clarity.