The Advantage of Pauses

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.

A person wearing a yellow dress and holding a yellow flower. They are smiling.

3 thoughts on “The Advantage of Pauses

  1. Nice post.

    It would be nice if we ALL slowed down when communicating. We are so busy cutting people off and racing to get the next word in. It would benefit us all to change our pace of communication!


    *From:* Just Keep Stimming! *Sent:* August 15, 2021 8:17 PM *To:* *Subject:* [New post] The Advantage of Pauses

    Courtney posted: ” 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 “


  2. Reblogged this on Autistic Science Person and commented:
    It is important to listen to AAC users and include them in conversations and really listen to what they have to say.

    I am not an AAC user. I just have one experience of using AAC temporarily. The one time I had almost no misunderstandings with other people was when I had an issue with my vocal cords for about a month. The day after I stopped using text-to-speech apps and AAC apps, someone misinterpreted my words. And it was because I was physically speaking to them so I didn’t have time to state my thoughts.

    If AAC was more generally accepted in society and accommodated by others, I would probably be a partial AAC user right now. However, that’s not the world we live in.

    Please share the words of people who use AAC or other alternative communication methods. It’s really, really important. Physically speaking should not be seen as the only way of communicating. This needs to change.


  3. So interesting. I have a friend who became deaf at four, due to the drugs used to treat meningitis. Her parents wanted her to have every opportunity a hearing person had so she was taught to lip read and, since she already had speech and her hearing loss wasn’t complete, she speaks more beautifully than me. In 2019 she published a memoir in which she laments being deaf in a hearing world and also shut out from the deaf community because she doesn’t sign. I was floored by this, in my close- minded ableist way. I thought signing would shut her out from so many opportunities. It took me several weeks to comprehend the no man’s land she sits in – two worlds and not really in either. And the effort she goes to in the world that was lovingly chosen for her by her parents. You post reminds me of this. The assumptions we make because of what is easy or convenient for us. I am so glad you have other methods you can use if speech is not an option. And your writing is so accessible and articulate. Writing is a wonderful outlet for me too, even although I can and do speak. It helps me think. Thank you for sharing.


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