Utter Autism

May 6, 2007

To Get A Voice

Some call it assistive technology (AT). Others say it’s augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).  Hearing either term causes me to experience of flood of mixed emotions.  On the one hand, the technologies these terms refer to have the potential to offer my non-verbal, autistic son a voice. On the other hand, I’ve had enough experience with trying to obtain and use these technologies to know that that potential is thwarted by the industries, professionals and funding systems that control them. It’s not that they mean to. It’s just the way things have developed. AT is expensive, which is to say it requires funding. The industries that sell the AT know that funding is required and therefore set their prices according to what the funding sources will pay. Since most parents with small children don’t have money coming out their ears, that funding most often comes from the government.  You might think it’s nice of them to fund it, until you remember that government funding involves a lot of red tape.  Enough red tape to run for years and years.  The red tape leads to the next group of people who get involved –   the professionals.  In order to justify spending the money on AT, the government requires lots and lots of documentation.  There are AT experts, speech therapists, teachers and doctors involved. There are evaluations, trials, prescriptions and reports.  It’s not that these are bad people; they’re doing what they can to help your child get AT in the system that exists.  But ultimately this whole process leaves out the most important experts in respect to the child, the parents.

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