Today I used Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) to talk to people. I used some basic sign and a ‘talker’ app on my handheld device instead of speech to communicate at university.
It was really hard not to just break into spontaneous speech during the day and extremely frustrating. I found that in the time it took me to type what I wanted to say on my device, the conversation had already moved on so I got left behind. Because I was so slow to respond, people tended to try to avoid having to talk to me after a while and would ask someone else nearby the same question because it was easier. People also started to answer questions for me which I found useful but which also meant I lost chances to express myself.
When I signed to people, I found that those who knew some sign/makaton would spontaneously sign back which was great because it felt like we were both the same. Even those who did not know the sign would try to interpret what I was saying from the actions. I loved that people were really trying to find out what I was saying.
At university I had difficulty participating in a workshop I attended. I had to interview my peers and be interviewed but it was frustrating for both sides. A positive was that it slowed down the pace of what I was saying for my interviewer. I think this would definitely impact on my learning and ability to access my education in the long term. I also didn’t want want to answer questions in class because I didn’t want to draw attention to my alternative way of communcating.
The most interesting thing I have found from using AAC today was the change in myself. I found myself withdrawing from conversations and I found it easier to avoid people rather than deal with the problem of communicating. Being on my own meant that I felt normal and that my difficulties weren’t immediately obvious!
I guess I am quite embarrassed about communicating through my talker even to my friends. I am a little nervous to try it out with the general public but this is a new challenge I shall need to try tomorrow.