I love to write, writing gives me a voice to reach out to the world. Without speech since a toddler, I was encased by my silence because I was unable to talk.
I will never forget the first time I learned to type with support. I was nine years old, in Grade 3, and went to the DEAL Communication Centre. With a combination of low tech methods, I was guided to communicate by pointing to laminated strips with “Yes”, “No” and multiple choices for answers to questions. The moment came when a speech generating device was put in front of me, and with a hand under my wrist, I learned to tap on the keys of the keyboard to say things in my own words. It was as if a veil had fallen from my eyes, with a feeling of exhilaration and power, I realised I could talk to people!
With this method of communication, partner assisted typing, I was able to take part in more activities at school, answer questions and even present my projects to the whole class. With thousands of hours of practice over the past 14 years, I have become a lot better and much more independent, so that with familiar communication partners, I can type with just a light touch on my shoulder or back. I have been able to go to mainstream high school and do the things I like and now I am attending university and loving it.
With a means of communication, I feel that I am able to become part of the world, and even to make contributions such as giving presentations in front of hundreds of people to advocate for people without speech. Remember, fellow students of AAC, when we first start, it will be hard going as our bodies have to learn new skills. But with practice and support, we can reach our goals. What’s more, with our communication partner’s hand under our wrist, we have the upper hand.