This qualitative case study is a description of a young man with autism who communicated using speech, sign language, facilitated communication, body language, and his mother's conversational supports. Participant observation, interviews, and review of records were used to explore his current and past communication practices. These practices illustrate his preference for speaking and the complexity of choosing among communication means on an ongoing basis. Although the young man and his mother differed in their thinking about communication, they revealed a common goal: for Michael to participate in ordinary life activities as a member with a voice.
The author gratefully acknowledges the support of Michael and Nicky Barrella, Douglas Biklen, Robert Bogdan, Steve Reiter, and Mayer Shevin in the completion of this project. All names and locations have been changed to protect the privacy of the informants.