Do you ever stop and think about the many ways we greet other people? We have a range of verbal greetings such as “hi”, “hello”, and “how are you?”. We also have a repertoire of body language and gestures. They might include a smile, a nod, a hand wave, a fist bump, a handshake, one or more kisses on the cheek, or a hug. Would you ever tell someone who gave you a welcome hug to now also say “hi”? This is what non-speaking students often experience. They communicate something clearly, using the best way they know how. Then they are asked to repeat the same thing using their Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device.
Every non-speaking person should have access to a wide range of communication options. This can include a communication app or device. We need to respect the specific communication method a person wants to use, at any moment in time. For autistic people this is even more important. Their ability to communicate effectively with any particular communication method may vary by situation. Therefore, our focus this Autism Acceptance Month is on accepting people’s different communication choices.
As communication partners we should be supportive of the communicative choices AAC users make. As parents and teachers, we should take this even one step further. We help younger AAC users expand their communication options. We achieve this when we attribute value and meaning to all the ways they communicate. We do not pressure AAC users to communicate in a specific way. We do not give them the impression that using speech or a speech generating device is the only way of communication that we truly respect. Many autistic people are part-time AAC users. It should be their choice to use their mouth, their AAC device, gestures, photos, or any other way to communicate.
Just some of the different ways we all communicate include:
- verbal speech
- body language and facial expression
- gestures and sign language
- pointing and looking
- communication device
- communication book
- communication board
- pictures in a catalogue, magazine or book
- photographs (in an album or on a device)
- social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, etc.
- writing a blog