A NEXT for AUTISM Grantee Spotlight
2022 NEXT for AUTISM Grantee: Communication 4 ALL
Organization Type: Autistic-Led
Grant Categories: Home, Social, Work
WHO THEY ARE
Communication 4 ALL is on a mission to ensure that more than 30 million people with nonspeaking autism worldwide have access to communication and education. Founded on April 7, 2022, by Elizabeth Bonker, a nonspeaking advocate, Communication 4 ALL focuses on the following key areas:
- Advocacy: Raise public awareness about the ability of nonspeakers with autism to type to communicate
- Empowerment: Provide resources for parents, educators, and policymakers to support nonspeaker communication
- Community: Build alliances with like-minded organizations and individuals to accomplish the mission
- Outcome: All nonspeakers with autism have the opportunity to learn how to type to communicate and to be educated
A GLOBAL CRISIS
A 2022 study “Motor difficulties in autism” showed how 87% of autistics have dyspraxia, or dysfunctional planned body control. In other words, many autistics do not have the fine motor control to speak or write with a pencil. People with nonspeaking autism have a motor disorder, not a cognitive one. They can learn to communicate their thoughts by typing on a keyboard, with one finger, carefully choosing one letter at a time. Today, thousands of nonspeakers around the world type to communicate and many have graduated from college at the top of their class. Unfortunately, the vast majority of families with nonspeaking children have no access to trained teachers of this life-changing skill.
2022 GRANT IMPACT
With funding from NEXT for AUTISM, Communication 4 ALL launched C4A Academy, a program of internet-based instructional videos to teach typing to nonspeakers anywhere, free of charge. In every case, it would be preferable to have a live expert providing the coaching and training, but we know that is not always financially and logistically possible. The Academy is focused on families without access to private instruction. C4A Academy videos explain how nonspeakers can overcome their dyspraxia using gross motor movements, including how to:
- Communicate by touching very large stencil letters, then smaller laminate boards, and finally a keyboard
- Use coaching to help students reach the right letters, and how to fade the coaching until the students are typing entirely on their own
- Progress from answering questions with known, single-word answers to open-ended conversations
No technology is required to teach a nonspeaker to be a “typer.” The alphabet can be written on pieces of cardboard if stencils, letterboards, and keyboards are not available. Technology, such as an iPad, can be used by advanced typers but it is not required for these lessons. Because each individual with autism faces unique challenges, C4A Academy also provides a Facebook group for families to support each other and access to free experts with Ask an Expert. In the future, the Academy plans to add experts to review videos taken by the families and offer tips and feedback.
NEXT knows that nonspeaking autistics are an underserved population in the autism community. That, along with the wide-reaching impact of C4A Academy made this proposal a standout. NEXT for AUTISM truly believes that C4A Academy is the next step for communication equality and is proud to help them pursue this worthwhile goal.
Watch Elizabeth’s Welcome Video to C4A Academy: