This month, in the United States, we celebrate the birth of our nation and the freedoms we enjoy.
Living in a free country (whether it's the US or another place in the world) is an incredible blessing. Being able to think independently and express your own ideas, opinions, feelings, and frustrations is a freedom sometimes overlooked because it is such an integrated part of our lives.
One of the beautiful things about AAC is that it opens the door to making communication accessible to people who might otherwise struggle to express themselves.
Often, when we think of AAC users, we think of people with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, or Aphasia making vocal speech difficult or impossible. But AAC is a tool and support to those in dozens of free feeling and thinking individuals, some in circumstances that might not have been considered at first.
Some people who benefit from AAC include:
- People whose speech is affected by traumatic brain injury following an accident or trauma
- Those who experience anxiety making social interactions difficult or impossible
- Stroke victims who temporarily or permanently experience diminished speech capacity
- People with ALS, MS, Rett Syndrome, Angelmans, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, aphasia, dysphasia, or other conditions
- Students with trust or authority concerns who may not choose to use their own voice to interact with others, especially adults
- People with hearing loss or who are deaf – especially when interacting with those who may not know or understand sign language
- Individuals who have experienced abuse
- Those with another physical condition affecting speech like a cleft palate or a stutter.
Making AAC available to all types of communicators does not limit or prevent vocal speech, it simply opens a door for additional communication options and other chances for connection when vocal speech is not the best solution.
By offering and utilizing AAC in everyday circumstances and multiple situations, we make communication accessible to EVERYONE.
It is not hard to imagine the situation where a child, student, friend, or loved one sits by frustrated and silent – NOT because they have nothing to say or no opinion or thoughts on a given circumstance, but because they have not been given the means or the opportunity to express those opinions or thoughts.
What does it say about freedom of speech if the people around us do not have the means to clearly communicate and we are simply ok with that?
The freedom of speech should NOT be limited to those who are able to use functional speech. It MUST be a freedom offered to and supported by all of us within the community.
What a person has to say may or may not match our own feelings and ideas. Isn't that the beauty of communication? It gives us ALL the chance to expand our perceptions, think outside ourselves, explore new ideas, relate to another person, change our opinions, or solidify our current views. It lets us take care of each other and empathize with those around us. It gives us a reason to communicate, and also the capacity to do so.
The freedom of speech is more than a nice idea from the past. It is a building block of families, communities, and nations. It must be a part of who we are as a worldwide people and that means we must find ways to make ALL types of voices heard – whether they can speak vocally or whether they need to communicate in another way.