Written in November 2023
Last night I attended my first Spellers and Allies (S&A) meeting with the International Association for Spelling as Communication. They're a global organisation based in the US that educates and advocates around spelling as a form of communication for people who are non-speaking, including minimally or unreliably speaking people.
Spelling to Communicate (S2C) is a form of communication that is accessible for individuals with apraxia, whose movement and co-ordination may not be reliable enough for sign language, including makaton. It can be supported, perhaps with a communication and regulation partner (CRP) holding a letterboard or keyboard, and it can be done solo if the person can type reliably on a device or keyboard. I've written about non-speaking autistic people in the past so for a fuller explanation head here (there are 3 parts).
I want to ally with this community because they're part of the wider autistic community but often looked over and left out of conversations, discussions and consultations about issues affecting autistic people because they communicate differently.
We discussed a whole range of stuff, including the theory of change, sharing resources around S2C resources and how to promote the #EndCommunicationDiscrimination campaign and get people to watch the presentation that I-ASC have put together – dates to be posted here.
We also discussed how to support spellers in the legal system and what the role of I-ASC should be in that context and there was an announcement about SpellX, a yearly event where spellers can perform their creative outputs – songs, poetry or whatever they want. There's a more regular event, the Neurolyrical Cafe, which is a space for the same sort of thing. If that wasn't enough, we also looked at Giving Tuesday and how some members had been asked to write an “ask” for donations for I-ASC. So if you're reading this and you want to do something for Giving Tuesday on the 28th November, donate to the organisation here.
In amongst that there was social engagement between the members and a good helping of humour. I was made to feel really welcome and it was a comfortable, accepting space to be in. What really stood out to me, though, was the amount of topics covered and the amount of progress made in 75 minutes.
I've been in meetings with speaking people that have taken longer than that and achieved far less and I want suggest chat/text only meetings when it's appropriate because it definitely gets more done. With the ability to react and reply to individual messages you can still agree, disagree, make your feelings known and have side-chats the clarify things without interrupting the flow of the meeting.
I want to really turn the communication monopoly of oral speech on it's head, because you may never have heard my voice before, but you're reading my words and (hopefully) taking heed of what I have to say. Sure, I can say these words out loud but I don't need to for you to understand and accept what I have to say through text on this blog. One of Autistic Radio's recent podcasts addresses the inequalities in communication, you can listen to it here.
I'm really looking forward to the next meeting and to getting involved with their communication sub-committee as it's a topic I'm really passionate about.
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