I have mentioned on here before that I had abusive speech therapy as a child, though I didn't go into all of the details.
My entire life has been knowing how speech is the only option. It doesn't matter how much I communicate, it matters that I speak, and that my speech sounds right. It matters that others are comfortable with me, not my comfort. I was taught this. And no matter how much I know this is wrong when I say this, when I go to try to say something, that is what I've fallen back on, it is so deeply ingrained.
So when I got to AAC, it wasn't from SLPs. It wasn't from professionals at all. Professionals kept trying to force me into their boxes. Professionals kept trying to mold me into what they wanted. Behavioralist therapy does that. Behavioralist therapy leaves those scars. And none of that was about who I was, what I needed.
When I got to AAC, it was autistic adults sharing with me things I might need. It was AAC users helping me search and find things that might help. Professionals, every one of them, even with me explicitly saying this is something I need, would deny my need, would refuse to help, while AAC users would help me through the process of searching, evaluating, finding ways to figure out what was a good idea, finding out how to afford AAC.
Professionals are held up as all powerful, but the only thing I have gotten from professionals is pain. The only things I have gotten from the professionals is making it more difficult to communicate. The only things I have gotten is denial of my AAC needs.
And now here we are, with doctors wanting to send me to an SLP. With me using my AAC to communicate, and yet again an SLP being seen as the solution.
Nobody asks me. Nobody listens when I say I don't want to go. Nobody respects this, they just keep telling me that this is something I should do, because speech is all powerful, because lack of speech is a problem. Nobody lets this be my choice, even when they are saying it is.
SLPs are seen as how to make someone communicate, but the communication I am having isn't being listened to. The communication I had as a child, wasn't listened to, and I was abused for years, to try to make me "normal". The communication that is occurring now, saying I am not comfortable with this, isn't being listened to. SLPs are seen as too powerful, too important, too valuable, because speech is too valued, for some random disabled person's communication to be seen as meaning anything.
I have communication. I have always had communication. Respecting that communication is important, and taking power dynamics into account is necessary. The power dynamics of speech therapy is huge. The power dynamics of learning AAC doesn't have to be.
And we act like AAC is unknownable, unlearnable, impossible, without professional involvement, yet, AAC is entirely doable on your own. I never saw a professional for AAC, and I have my AAC. I have multiple AAC options. I use AAC regularly. My AAC is not somehow non existent because I never worked with a professional. My AAC is not somehow not existent because I got dedicated AAC as an adult.
Oh "but oh, what about those people who need it". Those people? Those people who "can't" use AAC otherwise. Yes, we have an ableist society where you can't afford so much assistive technology without insurance covering it (and where insurance won't cover any assistive technology for so many people), but that isn't because people can't use AAC, it's because they can't afford it.
Is there benefit? Sure. Sometimes. If you want it, its not abusive, etc, etc, etc. But it's not always the best choice. It's not necessary. It's not about people being "too disabled", some "needing it" and others being "not disabled enough" for it. It's about people having choice, even when the way they communicate is different than you first expect.
AAC is approachable without professionals. It means figuring out what people need. It means figuring out how to access what people need. It means figuring out setting up AAC. It means figuring out how to teach. It means figuring out how to learn. And that is absolutely a lot. It isn't that AAC isn't a lot of work. It is that professionals don't have some magic knowledge that isn't possible to do without.
You can evaluate what you need, what your child needs, what your friend needs, what whoever needs. Professionals don't know needs better than someone who is themself going to use AAC. A professional who watches for an hour doesn't suddenly have more information than people who care to communicate for years. Professionals have experience, if they are any good, and nothing to active abuse if they aren't. Evaluation comes from knowing, from paying attention, from looking into what this means. This isn't something only an SLP can do.
You can evaluate options. You can go through looking at what is available. You can research. You can talk to people who use different things. You can research. The internet is available. There is all sorts of options out there.
You can set things up, even with all the work that is.
You can teach, and you can learn. Even with the fact that learning AAC is hard. Even with the fact that learning AAC is a process. Even with the fact that learning AAC comes with different people needing different things to help them learn. And when help is needed, help can be accessed, even by those who aren't professionals. Sometimes this is by asking for advice, sometimes more hands on, someone else helping out more directly, but professionals aren't innately needed. Professionals can help, professionals can be useful, professionals aren't the only option.
You can use AAC without a professional. Sometimes that's the best thing to do. Sometimes that is the only option, either because there are no professionals around, all professionals around are abusive, all professionals around will only focus on speech and deny AAC, all professionals around refuse to see you because you are "too high functioning".
You can use AAC, because you can use AAC. You can help your children, your friends, your family (whatever that means to you), use AAC. You don't need to wait for a professional who might just abuse you.
And beyond that, you don't need to always try to search for the SLPs, when you have that trauma, when you know that trauma, when you live that trauma. When you have the trauma, of people trying to change you, of changing you, of forcing you into being who they want, you don't need to go back to those professionals, even if they are now supposedly good ones, you don't need to trust. Because, there are just other options.
And not only are there other options, for some of us, those other options, are reliably more effective.
The internet, autistic adults, AAC users, are how I got my AAC, are how I learned my AAC. And that is entirely fine. There is nothing wrong with that. There is all sorts of help I have gotten, that I see happening all the time. People get AAC because they are figuring out it is an option. People get AAC because they are learning how.
Communication is communication. It's not dependent on some people to get paid to tell you what is acceptable ways to communicate. Learning more ways to communicate is great, it still doesn't need pathologized, or professionals at all.