Saturday, August 27, 2016

21 Days of AAC: Week 2

View week 1 here, and week 3 here.

I haven't done as well this week as the first week, mostly because our whole family, myself included, have come down with some sort of flu. In addition, one task had to be adapted and proved so difficult that I split it up into two tasks, because I don't have good data tracking for my AAC app. (Data tracking is available for Cough Drop, but you have to not be using it for free to access it, and their site was having issues that made me unable to pay them.)

Task 11 - Order at a restaurant with AAC
This one had several challenges for me. First, an acquaintance of my Mom's was having supper with us, and she commented several times that I was being weird. Secondly, I was overloaded by sounds from the bar, and third, in my overload, I forgot and spoke about wanting a quiet area. But when it came time to order, the waitress didn't bat an eye when I held out my device and pressed the sentence bar to ask for “chocolate milk and garlic shrimp skewers”. She also reacted very nicely when I thanked her and said it was good. Apart from repeating my words to check understanding (it was noisy and my speaker isn't very strong) her behavior wasn't noticeably different from if I'd spoken with my voice. I insisted on my parents giving her a good tip!

Task 12 - Express a goal for the future with AAC
Used AAC to tell Mom about my decision to start the Positive Neurodiversity blog.

Task 13 - Ask someone something about themselves that you don't know using AAC
Dad was talking about a David & Goliath TV show that Mom hates because Goliath (who is a dog) guilt-trips David. He speculated that Goliath might be reminding him of his Mom. I asked “when you were a child did your Mom talk about something you haven't done to make you feel bad?” He said no, but she had a litany of things his father had promised to do and never done, going years back. For example, he said he'd build her a bomb shelter and never got around to it. She'd bring out this list whenever she was upset with him.

Task 14a - Figure out three most commonly used words
My device doesn't have tracking, so I was struggling with this. I finally used the quotes in this record to count the most commonly used words in this past week. The top 5 were to, I, the, horse and work. I couldn't find synonyms for I or the, so I came up with the list toward, steed and task.

Task 14b - Use each synonym three times during the day
First, I said “after this can we go towards the 7-11” to my Dad, and then to myself I said “I ride my trusty steed” (added trust, said trust+e for trusty), and then “I am doing the AAC task for today”. A little later I jokingly asked Dad “do you like your machine steed” (car), which he didn't understand at all.
Just after lunch my brother was playing World of Warcraft and I asked him “what steed are you using?” He wasn't using a steed (I'd thought I heard him mount up, but I hadn't) but he did have a cool new hunter pet.
Randomly said “I am working toward a better world”. Then, while watching Voyager, I commented about a character “he must do this task by himself”. Just realized now that I forgot to the third phrase with 'task' in it!

The task that had the most practical difficulties was task 14, which I split into two pieces, and still forgot a little bit of it! However, the one that represented the biggest challenge to my AAC use was ordering at a restaurant. I'm still very much uncomfortable with using AAC to talk to strangers, even though I've considered having a wordless week at some point in the future to raise awareness.
But despite my personal anxiety, the restaurant meal went surprisingly well. The waitress didn't seem to even notice that I'd spoken to her once and used AAC the rest of the time. There are of course people who actually need AAC who could've acted that way, too - in my recent survey, I found 25% of adult autistics reported losing expressive language, and the noise level in that restaurant would be a plausible trigger.
However, I'm guessing many people in the general public don't understand that, any more than they understand part-time wheelchair use. I wonder if she just didn't notice, or if she knows more about part-time AAC users than most people do, or if she guessed that I didn't really need AAC but just didn't care. Whatever she thought, her reaction was much better than the lady in task #1 - she didn't change her behavior at all when talking to me as opposed to everyone else. Really the only thing I noticed that seemed different about her reaction to me was that she repeated back my order and not the others, and that was a purely practical reaction to my quiet speakers in a noisy environment. In every other way, she treated me like a typical customer.


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