So, last month was Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) awareness month, but I’m a hipster, so I do everything after the fact…or is that a procrastinator? Ah, whatever!
I work at the writing center at Saint Cloud State University and last night, I had just gotten done with a mentally tiring tutorial. The client was awesome, but the work was just deep and my brain hurt a lot. I enjoy those tutorials, usually, but they leave me mentally spent.
After the tutorial, I sat down at the table and grabbed my phone. There was another consultant there and we sat in silence for a bit. I wanted to say something, but the words just weren’t coming out. So, I opened the app that I just got the other day for my android phone “Text to Voice” and typed what I wanted to say. I had set default to a male British voice because the British accent is awesome!
And I just used it for the rest of the night. I thought about telling the guy I was talking to that it was because I couldn’t talk, but I didn’t quite see a point because we had a normal conversation with the difference being: I was typing. That’s it, that’s all it really is. I couldn’t talk, but I could type.
Times have been really stressful lately, so small things are shutting me down (that is what I call it when I can’t talk or when sounds get too loud or when lights get too bright) and making language go kaput. But that’s okay because there is no shame in having to do things differently. Society may attempt to bring shame upon me, but screw society because they attempt to bring shame on anyone who does things differently in any way.
I know the reality and it unnerves me: I am most likely heading toward an autistic burnout. I am trying to get myself ready for this possibility, but the thought of having no language, things are too bright, things are too loud, choices are too much unnerves me. I will make do with what I have at the time, but I’m still nervous for it because what will my colleagues think, what will my clients think, what will my professors think?
This is the reality of higher education, there are students who don’t have language all of the time. What supports does higher education provide when this happens? Well, for starters, teachers often ban electronics in the classrooms (no phone, no laptop, no technology policies). How would that work for someone like me who would need the electronics to communicate?
I know what you may be saying here: You can always hand write things. Sure, I could hand write things, but my handwriting often looks like a Plutonian (a alien from Pluto) script. Not only that, but I write slowly. So, how do I fit within higher education? It’s tough because on the one hand, I want to be here, yet on the other, it almost seems like I am not allowed here when I cannot talk.
So, for me, higher education needs to accommodate and recognize that banning electronics in the classroom is not without its problems. It marginalizes groups of people who need it to communicate. But above all, it silences us.