A few years ago I started to use AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) in the form of text to speech apps on my phone. I only started using AAC due to speech blocking tics to begin with.
These tics could last from a few minutes to about a week or so. I would type into my phone, and press the play button and it would speak it.
They were basic free apps, so the quality was not great.
At times I would end up just writing what I wanted to say in my phones note section, and showing people, or texting them.
Although I was using this form of communication due to tics, I was slowly learning that it was a form of communication I prefered.
I have always found writing things down for people easier. Whether it was writing down things for a GP appointment or therapy. Or just much preferring to text people, and hating phone calls. Talking, and communicating verbally has always been a struggle for me.
As a kid I had to have speech therapy as I couldn’t pronounce certain letters. Also although I was never diagnosed (I never saw anyone to diagnose me) I had selective mutism as a kid.
As speech became more important in a neurotypical world, I had to force myself to use verbal speech.
As a classical musician (French horn player) music became another form of communication without needing words. And if I was performing a recital and had to introduce the pieces, that was slightly easier as I prepared what I was going to say, kept it short, and practiced over and over.
There are times when speech is ok. When I am manic, or hypomanic, then verbal speech comes pouring out of my mouth. Often at an extremely fast pace, and often jumbled speech.
There are non manic times when speech works for me, but even then using speech in those situations tires me quicker, means I reach sensory overload quicker, and causes me anxiety. So speech is never accessible to me.
So whilst I was using AAC due to tics, I was slowly learning that AAC was often my preferred method of communication. I would often wish for the speech blocking tic so that I could use AAC. I don’t mean that to be disrespectful to people who have to use AAC due to tics, and for them AAC is not there preferred form of communication. However, the speech blocking tics gave me a reason to use AAC, and therefore a reason to communicate more effectively for me.
Via Twitter I began to mention that I found AAC preferrable to verbal speech, and was using AAC at times that I was going non verbal. Still at times if I had any verbal speech I forced myself to use it. This world teaches us that verbal speech is superior and the best communication method to use, so I continued to force speech at every possible oppurtunity.
Then one day on Twitter I saw a few others tweeting about being verbal or semi verbal AAC users, I joined in the Twitter thread with them, and pretty quickly we set up a facebook group for verbal AAC users.
In this group I was around people like me, people who had learnt to force verbal speech because society expected it, and we did it to survive. Who were now realising that AAC was their preferred method of communication either all of the time, or some of the time.
I learnt about more apps, and I soon realised that as I was using AAC most days, even everyday if I was around people, that I needed to get a more decent AAC app. So I saved up money (and brought them when in sales with 50% off) and brought both proloquo4text, and proloquo2go. Proloquo4text is a text to speech AAC, and Proloquo2go is a grid layout with pictures and words. I will write future blogs on both of these apps.
AAC can have its own accessibility problems which I will blog about, but my preferred method of communication is AAC,
So I am Oliver, and I am an AAC user, and I am ok with that, infact I am more than ok with that, I am happy to be an AAC user, because communication is that little bit easier with AAC.