Communication Autonomy and Self-Advocacy

As H gets older, he is starting to have preferences (and be able to share those preferences) about his AAC device. Whenever I think there is a word we should add I ask him first. After all, this is HIS voice and I want to show him that I respect that. I also want to make sure that he is involved in decision making early on so that he will feel comfortable self-advocating and making changes to his device on his own someday.

Sometimes he vehemently disagrees with my suggestion to add a word! One time early on in our AAC journey I added “pineapple” without asking and for some reason he was extremely afraid of the picture/word and refused to use the Talker at all for a week or two until I realized what was going on. We deleted “pineapple” and I still talk to him about how he did NOT want that word in his Talker so we took it out.

I have pre-programmed a few phrases including “put that word in my Talker”, “I have no button for that”, and “I need a new word”. Whenever he is trying to ask for a word or I realize something is missing I model those phrases for him and he has used them in the past when asking for new words.

Last week he kept pressing “Henry Hugglemonster”, which was located on a page with TV shows, and then going into a different page with characters on it and touching an empty spot next to the rest of the “Hugglemonster” family. I asked if he wanted to put “Henry Hugglemonster” on that page with the rest of his family, instead. He said yes.

I told him we could think about it more to make sure he really wanted to move it. “Henry Hugglemonster” was one of the very first words he had available on his Talker and I wasn’t sure whether he would really want to move it. His 2 favorite stuffed animals are Mickey Mouse and Henry Hugglemonster and they’ve always been together next to each other on the TV show page. The button has been there for 2.5 years. He already has a solid motor plan worked out for that word and it is a very high frequency word in our house.

However, he continued asking. I explained that if we put it on the character page, it would move from where it was currently located and would not be there any more (there are never duplicate words in Speak for Yourself). He understood and was very excited that the whole Hugglemonster family would be located together in one spot! He sat next to me while I showed him how to delete the word and he chose the location of the new button. He is thrilled and keeps going back and forth between the two pages to see the results.

It may seem insignificant to some, but the magnitude of this moment really struck me. H is making decisions for himself about his Talker. He has the AAC vocabulary and body language he needs to be able to indicate what he wants. He feels comfortable enough in our relationship to ask me and has the confidence to continue asking even after I had expressed reservations about moving the word. Ultimately, it was an opportunity to show him that he has autonomy and that I respect his ideas and his ownership over his device as his voice.

#hisvoicehischoice #communicationautonomy #speakforyourself #speakingAAC #AAC #slpeeps #selfadvocacy #autisticadvocacy #neurodiversity


Image shows the Talker page with TV shows right before we deleted the word “Henry Hugglemonster” to move it to its new page.


Image shows the new character page, with Henry Hugglemonster next to all of the other Hugglemonster family members.


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