Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Spelling Gives Us A Voice

By Philip

LS writes: 
Hi Philip!

My name is LS and I'm the mother to a wonderful 3.5 year old autistic boy who is nonverbal. I have been reading through your blog for a week or so and love learning from you! 8 months ago we discovered Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and bought my son the app "Speak for Yourself". He is doing amazingly communicating with it! He has stunned his school staff and they have been inspired to try to incorporate the app with as many other children in his school as possible. I am so proud of him for showing that a 3 year old can use a robust communication device and shouldn't be limited to one with only a few words, as they previously assumed. He is showing the world what we already knew - that he is a very bright boy with a huge desire to share his thoughts, feelings, and sense of humor with everyone around him.

Philip, my question to you is whether you have had any introduction to high-tech AAC or whether you have friends or classmates who use these devices? My son does love letters and has a keyboard built into the app and I am sure he will love typing someday but right now he is able to use motor planning to remember where approximately 600 words are on his device and we are constantly adding more. I am new to the world of communication for nonverbal people and have been eager to see if anyone who uses RPM also uses AAC devices instead of or in addition to a letterboard or keyboard?

Thank you for your time! I hope you have a wonderful day!


Philip writes:

My experience with AAC began when I was 6. I started on Go-Talk. It had only a few icons. It was good for requesting but not much else. Then I got an Alt-Chat. It became my voice at school. However I was not able to communicate with it with my family. They did not know how to use it. I kind of tried but I could not express my thoughts with the pictures. I could only make requests for food. I do best with a keyboard. I am able to express myself best making use of a good vocabulary. I am most happy using letters. The words I spell are what I think. Good communication systems let you say what you really mean. The AAC programs are often geared to me making a practiced response. I have to navigate the pages to find what I am looking for. I can't always find the right picture. It makes it harder to communicate for me. At school, I use Proloquo2go. I use some icons for shortcuts like bathroom and break. I like the combination of icons and text. I am for AAC with a text option. At home I use a paper letterboard or iPad with the Assistive Express app. My app allows me to have an actual voice to what I type.

In making my thoughts known I can be free to live my life how I choose because people can understand me. I am peaceful knowing I am free to really speak my mind. I speak to save my Autistic friends from an established philosophy that is not true. Demeaning treatment of Autistic people must stop.  ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) treats us like animals to be trained.  The lack of understanding of autism guides the philosophy that Autistics cannot learn normally or make friends.  Autism is not lack of intelligence or empathy. It is mind-body disconnect and sensory differences. Good accommodations are what is needed. Doing the research on Autistic people who communicate should help professionals in the autism field. I think they should meet us to learn from us.  I want to teach others.

Will you listen?

 High-Tech AAC iPad

Low-Tech AAC Letterboard
(made on computer and laminated on card stock for stability)

Copyright 2015 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.


  1. Hi Philip! I look forward to all of your posts and want you to know how interested I am in learning from you. I work with kids who are autistic, mostly "high functioning"-Asperger's. I feel like I could sit with you and ask a million questions but I will limit it to those that are most concerning to me.
    1.) Many of the kids I work with are defiant at times. They do not want to do their school work even though they are capable. Sometimes this causes teachers and aides to become frustrated and feel the student is lazy and stubborn. How can I help educate teachers and aides on how to deal with this? How do I help the student to comply with school expectations without a meltdown?
    2.) Do you believe it is best for an autistic student to have the same expectations as the other students in the class or is it best to modify? Ie: reduced number of problems to complete, use of a calculator permitted instead of having to do math in your head, use of a scribe instead of taking notes, not having to do "abstract art" assignments. I would love to hear your input on this. I know from my students many things challenge them but they can not put into words a way to adequately explain this to teachers. Help!

    1. Hi, thanks for your question! Philip has already started replying but it may take him awhile as he is busy with summer school, bike riding, and having fun. But be assured, he will answer and post eventually.