I journaled about AAC (Augmentative & Alternative Communication) back in May, but have only just now gotten around to turning it into a post. The AAC #autchat a bit over a week ago inspired me to get it written finally!
So I’ve been thinking for several months about making some AAC cards for times when I can’t talk, but haven’t managed to make them yet. I still have some concerns and anxieties that I need to get past before I can do it. In this post I’m going to look at them all and flesh them out a bit more than I’d done in my May paper journal entry.
Firstly, it’s a new and different thing. I would have to change the way I handle my mutism. Usually, now, I just try to leave as soon as possible and put off communicating until I’m able to either talk or text again. This works fine in most everyday situations, but I may someday be in a situation with a client, doctor, police officer, or someone else in authority who I can’t just walk out on until I’m able to manage communicating effectively again.
I struggle with change at the best of times and times when I can’t talk are really not the best of times. Trying to integrate a new routine into my worst of times is daunting, at the very least. Simply choosing to stay instead of just leaving would be a huge change.
Possible solution – Maybe I could practice staying in situations like that even without the cards. As long as I’m with someone I trust and they know I’m working on changing that routine, I think I could at least start practicing that aspect.
Secondly, I would only have to use them part-time, which presents difficulties of its own. There’s a lack of examples of people using AAC part-time so I’m not even sure how it would look or work. I don’t know how people would react if I’m able to talk some of the time, but use cards other times. Would I even be taken seriously when I use AAC cards if I can talk some of the time?
Possible solution – This seems like a perception issue that I need to work on personally. It’s also not my job to make sure others take me seriously. That should be their responsibility. I would also get used to people’s reactions so that wouldn’t always be the scary unknown factor it is now.
Thirdly, how would I organize cards and carry them around? I’d need to have them with me pretty much all the time, just in case, but where and how? They would need to be easily accessible and I’d need to be able to quickly find the one(s) I needed for any given situation. I’m not sure how to do all of that.
Possible solution – Practice seems like it could help with these issues. During the AAC #autchat I remembered that rehearsing things helps. So practicing with my AAC cards when I’m able to talk and around understanding people would probably help me more easily use them at other times when I’m not able to talk and actually need to use them.
I also don’t need to make a perfect system. It just has to be usable and I can always make changes when needed if my first attempts don’t work for me.
Fourthly, using AAC cards feels like it’ll be cheating somehow. I know, logically, that it’s not, but there’s still the feeling. I’m guessing that this is coming from internalized ableism so is just something I need to work on within myself.
Finally, (and this is something I’m fairly ashamed of) it makes me nervous to be visibly disabled in public. I have such mixed feelings about this. I don’t even know how to outline what’s behind this point. It’s a scary thing for me. I’ve always tried my best to disappear when I’m at my most disabled. To not be around other people. To hide. Many people don’t even have the option to hide and yet I sit here clinging to my dicey ability to hide sometimes. That’s not okay for me to do.
Aside from my nervous feelings, I don’t want to hide and I don’t want others to feel like they have to hide either due to lack of examples. I don’t know if this final point is my own internalized ableism or if it’s more a fear of society’s ableism. I’ve been trying to unpack it for two months now and it’s still a work in progress.
The fact is, I am disabled and I’m not getting any less disabled with age. To the contrary, it feels as though the opposite is happening. So I need to work through these things that are holding me up. I could potentially lead a better life, as the disabled Autistic person I actually am, through AAC use.
Therefore, I will continue working towards it. Writing all of these things out has been helpful and I’m hopeful that I can implement some of the practicing and start trying AAC cards. They don’t have to be perfect the first time. I can take the time I need to figure out a workable system. I can do this!