Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Andrea Disque

Second Advisor

Chad Walls


Nonspeaking autistic individuals who have no way to communicate cannot share their thoughts, dreams, or desires. The purpose of this qualitative narrative inquiry was to explore the experiences of family members of nonspeaking autistic individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. This study documented family members’ experiences of identifying, learning, and implementing two types of AAC: Rapid Prompting Method and Spelling to Communicate. Through one-on-one interviews, five participants shared their lived experiences. Three themes emerged from the data. The first theme was an increase in well-being for the entire family. All five participants described transformations and improvements in life not only for their speller, but for the entire family. There was an increase in well-being both physically and emotionally for spellers and their families. The second theme was a remarkable improvement from the past. All five families shared changes to communication and, for their nonspeaking autistic family member, shared a dramatic shift in the social aspect of their family member. They also shared major improvements in self-injurious behaviors. The third theme was that learning and implementing AAC was laborious but beneficial for the communication partner. They all described the commitment it took and that it was worth every minute. Each participant talked about sharing the benefits and changes with other families. All of the participants encouraged families who might be considering spelling as AAC.


Ed.D. Dissertation



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