Saturday, June 26, 2021

Can vs Should

CN: anaphylaxis and not taking anaphylaxis seriously, abuse, talking about disabiliy and risk of death

If you ask me if I can teach, it doesn't matter how sick I am, it doesn't matter how symptomatic I am, it doesn't matter how much I can't, I will say yes. And I will do so.

And this is one of the reasons I can't teach.

So yes, I've gone to classrooms with migraines where I couldn't see, speak, or stand. Yes, I've signed up for a summer job while I still had significant enough post concussion syndrome that my doctors were regularly seeing me to monitor how my brain was doing. And yes, I've gone and taught in the middle of anaphylaxis.

Whether or not I "can" do this doesn't mean I should teach when I can't breathe enough to not have my vision go black if I try to walk 5 feet. Whether or not I can pretend, doesn't mean it is safe.

I don't think it is a huge controversional statement that I should not teach a class in the middle of anaphylaxis, while my throat is closing, while I'm producing enough phlegm that I'm emptying tissue boxes, while lying on the ground I'm not sure I'm staying still enough and in a position that keeps me from presyncope but sure that if I rise I'm into it, and yet I have been asked when in that state, if I could teach or if I needed someone to cover.

I said I could teach. And I did it. I got to the room before anyone was there, still not sure how I safely managed it, half sat half laid across pillows with them holding me up, and yet it managed to make it look like it was me being casual - it was a casual situation after all. And had my AAC to explain what was going on, and let people do what I told them to do. Nobody knows you can barely breathe if you're using AAC anyways.

So yeah, under some definitions I can teach in the middle of anaphylaxis. I have. And what should I have been doing? I should have been in the emergency room. I've had plenty of mild anaphyalaxis situations where emergency room wasn't necessary, but when for all I know my blood pressure is crashing given the presyncope feeling, and whether or not it is, sitting not to mention standing, is a question because of the struggle to breathe, that's not a situation to be messing around in.

Except, what I can force myself to do, and what I should do are different. And when the question in my mind, is teach, or leave those children with an adult who is abusive - and even asking me to do this was abusive, there's not a question in my mind that I am protecting those I can protect. It was dangerous and risking my life and truthfully, I couldn't think of any of that in the moment, what I could think was I can find a way do these things for these children. I'll find a way, at the cost of my own health and a risk of my life.

The things we can do, and the things we should do are not the same.

And so often, we're told because we can do things we don't need help.

But no, I can do things, because if I don't children are abused, not because I'm actually capable of it.

And that, can.
That's killing us.

I am just lucky I got away, I was dragged away, I had people who could get me some kind of help I needed, and I wasn't forced into I "can" do this, even at the cost of my life.

Techincalities don't make can't into can.

And no, I can't do this, no matter what you say, and no matter how many times you ask.
(and no, don't ask me)

We can say we can't.

Even when our can't doesn't agree with your idea of can and can't. Even when you'd rather say if we can force ourself at any cost, then we can, even when under every definition we shouldn't spend that much of our own being, because we can't do it, even while forcing ourselves, we can just pretend enough that people who don't care don't notice.

Our lives are worth too much to pretend otherwise

Our lives are worth too much for you decide what we can and can't do.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Growing up on AIM, I could communicate

I'm an autistic millenial. Like other people my age, I grew up in the internet of the late 90s and the early 2000s. I grew up on forums and reading blogs. I grew up with it being a big deal who had dial up and who didn't. I grew up around y2k. And I grew up with AIM.

I grew up in the time of AIM. And sure, AIM wasn't the only messanging program around, or the only messanger I used. I had AIM and MSN messanger and skype's text chat, and chatrooms associated with forums, and found my way to IRC. But I grew up with AIM; I grew up on AIM.

Because AIM was what everyone had, and in many ways AIM defined this time. If you didn't have an AIM account you were ostrocized, whether it was by people who'd bully you for everything, or friends still being why are you so weird. It was expected. And it was text chat.

I grew up in a time where a text chat was was the cool thing to do, it was the expected thing to do for completely everyone, as everyone moved online, and was finding ways to keep contact with friends. It was easy, it was convinient, and it was something that didn't make you stand out. Typing, text, things that weren't speaking weren't disability things, they were everyone.

And me? Who didn't get IM accounts for the longest time because I didn't understand why you'd want to have real time conversations if you weren't forced. Because I didn't want to deal with needing to process all of those things even more. What it did for me when I was dragged into this socializing, was being, this is something I can do when I didn't realize anything would be doable.

But I grew up in the time of AIM. And that meant that my learning and discovering how to communicate in text, and that I could communicate in text, and that it was possible to do things I didn't know was possible, was socially acceptable. It was expected, it was something you were supposed to do to have conversations in these instant messaging programs. If you did otherwise you were the weird one. I was able to figure out what I needed - but without social stigma of this discovery process. I was able to figure out what I needed - and with things being provided to me to search and try, and explore. I wasn't stigmatized for the discovery process of maybe I can actually communicate if you give me the ability to type.

I grew up on AIM, so this was what everyone was doing, whether they needed it for disability or not. In those early years it wasn't the slightest bit out of place, when it would have been seen more strange for not having an instant messaging account than for typing to friends when we were next to each other.

And yes, these times, where we talk about older generations calling and younger generations texting. Where we talk about the first generations of people growing up online and teens living on social media rather than on the phone as teens. They're talked about a lot in terms of differences in communication in general, but it's also worth thinking about these in terms of progress in terms of non-speech communication, in terms of what is normalized.

In some ways, the first AAC I used was AIM. I would send messages to people sitting next to me becuase I needed some way to speak when I couldn't. I pieced what I could do together using the internet. And in other ways, nobody thought this was weird, I wasn't some odd disabled person. My communication wasn't stigmatized. They didn't notice I couldn't speak. They were choosing to type too.

Friday, March 12, 2021

I like turtles (or AAC is really hard)

I like turtles

I first started seriously looking at symbol based AAC in my mid 20s. I was working and needed more support than I had in order to be able to do my job - this was something that seemed like it would mean I could work when I otherwise couldn't. Vocational rehab was supposed to get me a setup, but avoided doing so until I needed to quit with my brain and body being unable to keep up with the demands of work.

This meant I first got the symbol AAC I use in my late 20s, when I was able to afford it for myself. I'd graduated from college. I'd worked in the field of education. I'd started typing when I was young, and was regularly using typing based AAC. I was able to communicate using speech at least some of the time. And while none of what people do, or don't do is important to their worth, I'm making this clear, entirely for the next point.

It took months for me to be able to say anything besides "I like turtles" on my symbol based AAC.

AAC is hard. It is really hard. Communicating is hard. Language is hard. Learning these things is so many different things you need to do, you need to know, you need to learn and put together, and piece together. But - even for someone who had been regularly using English in multiple other forms - I could not say more than a single sentence - the same sentence always - on my system, for literal months.

And think about the expectations put on toddlers? To within a week or two be using this to communicate?

I could never have done that - and I had the advantage of choosing the app I wanted, so I knew it was one that the organization worked better for my brain. I had the advantage of being able to organize and reorganize and continue to reorganize my app to make it work better for me (and in the process learn how it was set up!) I had the advantage of decades of learning how my body coordinated, because as dyspraxic as I am now, I'm not 3 years old and trying to learn my same dyspraxic body.

I had the advantage that I had the choice and control, and that when I was practicing, I could look through other folders, trying to figure out anything else to say, and get overly confused and go back to just saying "I like turtles" yet again, and nobody would tell me I had the mind of a toddler, when I was 28, because I had gotten lucky enough to have control of who was around me as I was practicing. I had the advantage that I could lead the way, completely.

And still, it took months, where all I could say was "I like turtles". And months of practicing, in ways other people did not see, and would need to trust me that it was worth having this app and having paid for this app. And months, of figuring out things in my own very personal way. And returning and telling people that "I like turtles"

These expectations of children figuring out AAC in weeks, or even in months, are unrealistic. We are asking people to do incredibly difficult tasks of figuring out how to communicate in new ways. And it can be worth immnense effort to learn to communicate in new ways, and add these to the set of methods of communication. But that doesn't make it not, really, really hard. (I will note, that whether or not something that is difficult is worth it is going to vary, sometimes something will be worth it, sometimes it won't be and something else would be, everything is personal. I know for me, what is worth using for communication and effort and how immensely hard it is when multiple things are really hard, is going to vary moment to moment - that's okay. Communication is complex.)

We're asking people to learn to communicate in ways that abled adults can't, as they talk about how hard it is to model, and not being able to do the modeling for their children, and yet, there's this expectation that children can pick it up within a month, despite that difficulty

And beyond all of these expectations, there is the simple experience. This is hard. This is really hard. And that's okay for me to say that this is really hard for me still and was really hard, and even though it's sometimes the best I have, that doesn't change that it's hard.

And, the simple description of, figuring out AAC by repetition of even the same thing is something I needed to do and that's okay too. And if you haven't guessed, I like turtles.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

My AAC is my normal voice

CN: abusive speech therapy

When I was a child I was put in speech therapy because I didn't speak properly.

Sounds don't work that way. They don't combine those ways. They are more predictable than that. Don't you know, don't you know, don't you know.

Just do this. (But how?)

Just do what I say. (I know I'm wrong. I'm trying, it's not good enough)

Say these again. You need to repeat until you do it right. (But, why does saying cat like you do matter? people already know what I say)

You aren't trying hard enough, nobody will ever understand you. (I can't make sounds go right order in words you don't make me say over and over again anyways. I'm not saying anything. I don't want more words to say over and over.)

You don't need anymore speech therapy. [You speak properly now]

Don't you know, that the people coming up to me and making fun of my voice is something that doesn't happen enough I don't know how to talk about it. I know my voice is uncanny valley. But none of this bullying that has lasted into adulthood happens. My speech is normal now. They said so.

Don't you know, I don't need any sorts of support, I can't just speak. My speech is normal you see. What I actually need for supports isn't what matters. It's what people deem as normal. It's what people deem as close enough to normal.

Don't you know, it's do I try hard enough, when anyone notices my speech isn't like theirs its because I'm not trying hard enough. Don't you know if I can't read aloud its because I'm not trying hard enough. Don't you know if I get overly fatigued and my mouth stops moving in anything like word positions its because I'm not trying hard enough. Don't you know I just need to try, with more energy than any person, non-disabled, or disabled has. Because I need to look like others want.

Or that's what I'm told. That's what I have been told. That's what I was told for much of my life.

I talk about not using AAC until I was an adult. I was told my speech was normal. I just needed to make it sound normal. It was just needing to try.

I wasn't directly told AAC was failing, but they didn't have to.

I was told I was normal I was told I was normal I was told I was normal. I was told I had to be normal.

If you don't speak like this nobody will understand you

There's no alternative. I wasn't told AAC was a failure, but they don't need to say that when you're told there's no alternative.

My AAC is my normal voice.

Do people have to be normal to be understood and important and relevant and people? No.

But if my speech is normal, then my AAC is my normal voice.

Why is saying nothing preferred? AAC at the doctors office

I do not need to ask why is it that I've had multiple doctors ask me why not everyone does this typing to them, but why?

Why are we so focused on speech as society, that even when you cannot speak because of illness you try, and won't turn to the phone you are already caring?

Why is speech so prioritized that typing is so much a failure, subhuman, thing to do, that saying nothing is preferred?

Why are these doctors, where it makes their lives easier, because I am the first patient in these scenerios, that they can easily get a picture of the situation, that treat me as something even close to human?

I know these answers. Or, at least I am not surprised by any of this. I was one of the people taught from birth how much I was a broken child because my speech wasn't like everyone else's. I am someone who has been told too many times to count how much my words don't exist, because I am typing. I am someone, with the trauma of forcing speech. I am someone with this in my body at all moments, as my body needs to remember how to respond to people, to communication.

But, at the same time. I cannot understand. I can't understand why someone would choose to be trying to talk through coughing so hard it is making you black out - and I've been directly told by a doctor I was the first patient they've ever seen that didn't try to do such a thing. It is so much easier, to not rely on the unreliable body parts which aren't working in these moments of illness.

I want to tell people, this is an option. I want to tell people, it's okay, you aren't taking it from some other people, if that's what they're afraid of. Or, if you are afraid of being like "those people" then get though this doctors appointment you need to get through and then read the words of those people. Listen. You have so much to learn.

I want to tell people that this is an option. That, they don't need to speak at all moments of time, even if they do usually. Even if they do all the time, except for illnesses like bronchitis, such as I am referencing as an example here.

You aren't wrong if you use AAC because of laringytis or bronchitis or anything of this sort. It's great! It's for everyone. Use it.

I want to tell people this is an option. And society is wrong, in saying that you need to try to speak. You don't need to force yourself. You don't need to spend energy, or oxygen, or physical pain. You don't need to try to speak when you physically can't. You simply don't need to. And there are options. You can do what works.

I want to question how people using AAC in these moments is normalized, rather than if anyone else will see these doctors with AAC. I want to question what is being done now, rather than why I was the first. I want to know, what are we doing, so that people can communicate, however they can, whenever they can.

And I want that to mean everyone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Not all languages look the same; our AAC needs to recognize that

I've been working on learning Finnish, and in order to do that, I've been trying to set up a Finnish AAC setup. If I am going to be actually learning a language, I need my AAC to support that language.

What I have found is that it doesn't support it. I can get a voice (and voice engines have a single voice choice, and there are so many languages that don't have any voices), but as I am trying to set up a symbol-based AAC, something I need, and use, it doesn't work.

I have spent an unreasonable amount of time searching, and yet, for all of my searching, all AAC starts from the assumption that languages work like English; that languages grammar work like English, or sure you might change word order between Subject Verb Object, Subject Object Verb, or so on but that can be just chosen with a different order of button presses. They come with assumptions that they can start with English, and order of button presses is all that might vary.

And yet it feels wrong, to not be able to label words as postpositions, with preposition as an option, but not postposition, for types of words. It is a challenge to make AAC work for me when I can add 8 inflections for a word and no more, like words never have more than 8 inflections, when working in a language with more than 8 inflections for the same word. Conguation works differently in different languages - we need to recognize this. Inflections for nouns, adjectives, and other parts of speech are work differently for different languages - we need to recognize this.

We need to, because currently everything is built around English. And not everytihng looks like English. And that means not all languages are supported. Because not all languages are English. And not all languages have the same structure as English.

And all languages need AAC.

There is so much talk of how many button presses to get to words, but when additional folders need to be created, then the number of button presses has to go up - sometimes dramatically. Every test sentence I tried was at least double the number of button presses of what it'd take to say in English to say an equivalent in my current attempt of building a board set in Finnish because of trying to force it to work despite lack of support. This large number of button presses is in large part because of differences in inflections - I don't have the number of noun cases supported and need additional folders for every noun and adjective. I don't have the idea of a language that looks like this supported at all.

But, there are many areas in which languages vary beyond this one example of noun cases - as well as many in which English is unusual. Tenses, questions, there's a lot of things that are just, we need to be able to support how it works in other languages as well.

I cannot find any symbol based AAC that looks comfortable to use with an agglunative language. And agglunative lanaguges exist.

People speak different languages. People have different native languages. People learn different languages. English is not the only language that exists. And limiting people to English because of their disability is a problem. Limiting people to only certain limited languages, because of their disabilities, is a problem. People speak different languages, not all languages look the same, our AAC needs to recognize that. And our AAC needs to support that.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Being wrong

When I was a kid, I didn't know I was different than others.

Oh, I knew they hated me. I knew everything about me was wrong. But I didn't know I was different than them. I just thought I was hated. I just thought it was me.

When I was a kid, I didn't know I was different than others.

I knew people didn't take me seriously. I knew people didn't believe me. I knew people didn't treat me like what I was saying was true, when I was just saying basic things about myself. But I thought that was just how it was.

When I was a kid, I didn't know I was disabled.

I grew up around disability. I grew up being told about disability. I grew up writing stories about disability every time I was expected to write any sort of creative writing in school. And I didn't know I was disabled. Nobody told me.

I would be being pulled from class for speech therapy. More and more time trying to fix my speech into what others wanted. Me not understanding why I was there. But I didn't know I was disabled. Nobody told me.

I can't say I wasn't treated like I was disabled though, because I was. Adults talked to each other, around me, about not knowing my labels but knowing there was something wrong with me. I found out about this as an adult. I was forced into multiple forms of therapy. People treated me like I was wrong for being me.

But I didn't know why. And I didn't have words for any of this. And all I had was that people hated me.

I didn't know I was disabled. I didn't even know I was different. All I knew was that I was hated.

If I tell people I didn't know I was different there's assumptions that it didn't hurt me for me to not know.

The people around me knew. The treated me like they knew. I didn't know why they were doing so. Me not knowing didn't protect me from others knowing.

Often when people talk about when do you tell your child about their diagnosis people end up talking about your child already knows they just don't have the words for it. But, there's also, other people know. Not knowing isn't protection from others knowing. Not knowing doesn't keep your child out of abusive therapy. Not knowing doesn't mean your child is treated like everyone else. Not knowing doesn't keep your child safe.

I didn't know I was disabled. I wish others didn't know.

Because other's knew. And that meant I was still treated like I was disabled, even though I didn't have these words for my existance. Even though I wasn't able to find other pepole like me. Even though I didn't know there was any community. Even though I didn't know what there was that could help me.

I still was wrong in the eyes of others, and they still knew that, even if I didn't know why they thought I was wrong.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Why don't you ask them?

I interact with a lot of parents of disabled children, in a variety of settings. I think the most common question I am asked is approximately "so you have this same disability as my kid, what does my kid need?"

Why don't you ask them?

I don't know what your kid needs. I am glad! So glad you are asking me, looking for adults like me, who have similar disabilities to your child, to learn from. I think that can help so much with learning. But I don't know. I don't know the things that your child loves, the passions your child has, the thoughts your child thinks. I can't know them. I'm not your child.

I can give advice. I can tell you We Are Like Your Child. I can tell you patterns exist, and that you should pay attention to patterns. I can talk to you. I can tell you things to read. I can help you find ways to learn how to listen to your child, and help you find ways to communicate with your child.

But I am not your child, and I cannot know what your child is thinking.

And similarly, you are not your child, and you cannot know what your child is thinking. You cannot know what your child can understand. Have you asked? These questions you are bringing to me, have you brought them to your child, and heard their thoughts, instead of just hearing mine, as useful as hearing the thoughts of a disabled adult is? Because the decisions of your child are what matter here. Your child has autonomy. Your child needs autonomy.

Sometimes, that's the things I need to say, is your child is a child and that means your child will grow up. Sometimes that's the things I need to say, is that you are being told disability is scary, and not, look, your child is a person we need the ability to make decisions over what we want to do, how we want to do it. We need to be able to rebel. We need to be able to enjoy things.

Sometimes that's the things I need to say, is simply. Have you asked? Because of being told, over and over, that you need to turn to professionals, and eventually that meaning you are learning you can ask me instead. But not realizing you can simply ask your child, when it's your child's life that you are controlling.

So have you?

Have you asked? Why don't you?

"But they don't understand"

You. Don't. Know.

You don't know what your child is thinking. You don't know what your child knows. You don't know what your child can do and what your child wants to do and what your child has never been given a way to do, because of people never saying it is available, and what people have been making therapy therapy therapy therapy and never letting there be a way to live instead of try to have us get fixed. You don't know.

Do you know they understand? No. Do you know they don't? No. You have absolutely no reason to know they don't. So find a way that communicates with them. Pay attention. Provide options. Try things.

Do they need more time to process? Do they need pictures? Do they need things provided in multiple ways at once? Do they need reduction of sensory input? Do they need things the same, or different, or anything, when being asked questions? How works? I know what works for me, I don't know what works for others. But assuming it works for you, doesn't mean it works for your child, and because what works for you doesn't work for your child, doesn't mean your child doesn't understand. It means that particular option doesn't work.

Or you might tell me they can't answer you. But answering doesn't need to be in words.

Have you provided any sort of AAC system that isn't their body language anyways though? Have you looked into what works, and given time to learn, and treated it as communication and not as behavior to be learned?

Have you recognized body language as communication?

You're telling me echolalia and stims aren't communication. Bah. Are you paying attention? Sure, communication is multi-level and not always direct and when you're expecting the words to mean what they say, you aren't getting that. But are you paying attention to when they're said, why they're said, how they're said? Are you paying attention?

Are you listening to the communication that is your child's instead of expecting your child to match your communication to make it easier for you?

You ask me, what you need to do for your child, but are you asking your child, are you asking your child in your child's language, are you listening to your child's language in response, are you realizing not everyone needs to say your language always, in the first place?

I can help.

You should be asking questions. Your child should meet us. Your should read things written. Things by disabled adults are so so helpful, and you, yes you, need autistic friends. But your child needs asked too.

Ask. Listen.

To us. And to your child.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

a case against modeling

But modeling is the Best Practice for teaching AAC you say. It's how you do it. It's the best way we know to help people learn to communicate.

I say no. Modeling isn't the best way to teach AAC. The best way to teach AAC is simply communicating.

There's a whole bunch out there about modeling, what is modeling, how you should model, what are the best ways to model, how to be more efficient with modeling, but what it comes down to is that it always is being unnatural. You aren't naturally communicating. You aren't using words like you usually do. You aren't putting together sounds, putting together words, playing with language, using language, using sentences, the way you usually do. It's not talking about things you talk about, the world around you, what people like, reading books together. It's not how we talk.

How people model, how people talk about modeling, is like you can only show one button at a time. We don't learn only one word at a time, we learn relationships between words, we learn words and how they interact with each other. We learn words that pile upon another, playing with each other. We learn how some words fit with each other, and others don't, at the same time as learning words. We learn language. Because, we hear these things. We have them offered to us. They are used around us. They are used.

How people model is like you have to go out of your way to find ways to use these words. The important words. The core words. The words you need to make sure people know. Like it matters what people learn first. The words we learn can be the words we learn. We can communicate in multiple ways. Pay attention to the communication. But, going out of the way, isn't natural, it doesn't make those words make sense, they don't fit.

How people model is like, you need to think, and plan, and use numbers, and it these numbers and counting, and looking at the data just about makes it into trials. It makes communication into behavior.

My communication isn't behavior. My AAC use isn't behavior. My life isnt a series of behaviors.

You want to teach AAC?

What about just talking?

What about simply, using AAC?

What about simply, communication being, having AAC, and using AAC, and that being your default method of communication. Type, buttons, learn them, know them. You want to ask for food, use it. You want to talk about the baby bird, use them. You want to read a book, use it. You want to play with sounds together, joyfully playing with the fact that noises are noises and you can make specific noises with specific letters? Use it. Just, use AAC, however it gets used. Whether that's talking about dogs and cats, or about advanced mathematics, or both.

This exposes AAC. This shows language. This shows buttons. This is natural, you using it when and how you would be. This interaction. This is interactive. This isn't sitting there using AAC like it is some thing you would never want to use, but I guess you need to push these buttons to show that they exist (because seriously "I need to say all the words and press one" WOW that is saying speech is better, and like there is something wrong with me for using AAC for all of them, not like I'd want to interact with someone doing that to me. I would choose not to interact with someone doing that to me.) This is communication.

Modeling isn't communication.

Using AAC. Communicating with AAC, is letting someone communicate back, however they choose, is listening, is responding, is paying attention and learning someone else's language, as well as learning and communicating with an AAC app, but the important central part of this is that it's communicating. It's an interaction between multiple people. It's an interaction.

You want to teach AAC?

Use it

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

you wouldn't claim I don't know the words

You don't say I don't know words, that I don't know meaning, when I drop them. When my natural speech patterns (typing patterns really, we shouldn't call all word patterns, all word choice, speech patterns). When my natural word choice doesn't include pronouns in many situations, because they are just unnecessary. You know what I mean.

You don't say I don't know words, when I talk to people, about pro-drop and aux-drop. I know the terms. That makes it acceptable.

(That makes it acceptable because I was taught the words. Because I'm an adult. Who was treated like I could learn.)

You don't say I only know nouns, because my choice of how to say "I am hungry" is "food?"

but I mean, why would you say anything else? It says all you need to.

And meaningfully. You don't say you. Yourself. Don't know these words, when you do it yourself. I pretty much guarantee, you yourself, are dropping words from so called "proper english" what you claim is proper, and what you are trying to force upon people, because "they don't don't know the words" or "how do I know they know the words" or any other thing claiming people don't know something because they choose not to use it, just because they are disabled. Because what you use isn't what we are supposed to use.

it's okay for me. Because I know how to talk about what I'm doing. Because I was given the chance to learn which is being denied from others.

You don't claim I don't know the words.

Except, if you met me, and I was using my symbol based AAC, would you claim it then?

(I mean no, because when I'm using it I feel forced to use them all. I feel forced to not use natural language. I don't feel like it is truly a representation of how thoughts flow. It is helpful to me, but with how I have been treated with picture cards and with how picture cards and symbol based AAC is treated in general, I don't know how to make it natural language. I simply don't know.)

Would you claim it though? If I were to use my symbols like I do my typing? Or even, if you saw my typing AAC, would then, it be me not knowing words. Would I be instead of someone on the other side of a keyboard, someone who doesn't know things, because I would be now supposed to speak however you want, to prove myself, rather than to communicate.

Because language is meant to communicate. But treating it like this, it's not communication.

"How do I know if they know core words"

Do you know what they are saying? Are they successfully communicating? Is that the goal?

Or is proving their knowledge of core words the goal?

Is the goal getting across an idea?

Or the goal pretending to be normal

Except.
Normal.
Isn't.
Even.
Like.
That.

You are trying to make us into robots. Claiming it is the only way speech works. And it has taken effort to learn that I don't have to do that. But still, you wouldn't claim that I don't know these words, when I'm choosing now not to use them. And others, who have never been given the opportunities I have, you are claiming do not understand.

There is no one way to speak.