Be Mine – Relationships and Regulation

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM,

February is observed as the month of love as we celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 14th. This day is when you can show those who you love the most how special they are to you. It is also a day I feel was created by Hallmark so that we can stand at the card section spending an hour reading the cards and even laughing out loud (be honest, we’ve all done that!) before we spend an exorbitant amount of money to purchase it, but I digress. This blog isn’t necessarily about the ways to tell someone that you love them, but instead to remind ourselves of the impact that relationships have on us, our spellers and our regulation. 

First, let’s talk about regulation. Regulation is essentially being in a state of homeostasis. It’s when we are alert, but not overly anxious or drowsy. When S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM,we are regulated we can think critically, we can act and move in a way that is controlled, and we can engage in our daily tasks with focus and ease. For more information about the science of regulation, check out When life throws #$$(@! At you, cover it in glimmer. For this blog, we will think of regulation as when we shift from feeling in control, to feeling out of control and anxious. 

Some relationships we have are very regulating while others are not. For example, our significant other, parent or best friend can be very regulating (or not!). Our boss, a co-worker or family member may be very dysregulating (or not!). As a neurotypical person, I have the ability to regulate my body and process the emotions in a way that I am able to control my body and work through those challenging relationships. Individuals who have sensory and motor differences can be significantly affected by those around them and the emotions that they feel from others in the room. Let’s look at a few of the questions or comments that I receive most often related to relationships and our spellers. 

Communication and Regulation Partners

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM,The question I receive the most is about finding a communication and regulation partner (CRP) who is not the parent. Who would be good for my son or daughter? How quickly can we train someone? The answer always goes back to building the relationship and the importance of a solid relationship before we even start coaching them as a CRP. Once that is established the coaching process will be much smoother. When the relationship is solid, the potential for the CRP to support regulation for the speller is the greatest. When you live in a body that doesn’t follow your brain, a CRP needs to be focused on regulation at all times. 

Those that do not presume competence

Individuals who don’t presume competence can fake it with neurotypicals – most of the time. For our spellers, they know when someone is faking it 100% of the time. Teachers, CRP’s family members and others who have relationships with our spellers may not presume competence even though they say they do. How do we know for sure? First, we can talk with our spellers about it, but if they are not fluent on the letter board, we can observe the interactions. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for the other individual as presuming competence is not always the norm. If you haven’t done the lesson “Let me spell it out for you”, be sure to check it out as it discusses the importance of presuming competence and how this affects our spellers within the context of relationships. 

Misunderstanding the brain-body disconnect

This is a big one! It’s hard to look at someone doing the exact opposite of what was asked, or not doing anything at all and assume that they are desperately trying to follow the directions. The brain body disconnect related to apraxia is one of the most challenging things to fully understand. This is why establishing a solid relationship with the speller is essential. When we can get to know the speller to understand their motor profile, just like building your skills as a CRP, you will also build the skills to understand their body. When we can support the body for the speller, they feel understood and when we feel understood our relationship strengthens. 

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM,

I realize this may not be the most Valentine’s Dayish blog that you have ever read, but when I think of love and Valentine’s Day, I think of those around me, my relationships with them and how these relationships can affect my own regulation. Strong relationships for our spellers are the key to support regulation and communication. Happy Valentine’s Day!  

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, I-ASC, Autism, nonspeakersWritten by Dana Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/L

Dana Johnson is an S2C Practitioner, Director of Invictus Academy and Interplay Therapy Center,  and a member of the I-ASC Leadership Cadre living in Tampa Bay, Florida.


The mission of I-ASC is to advance communication access for nonspeaking individuals globally through training, education, advocacy and research.  I-ASC supports all forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with a focus on methods of spelling and typing. I-ASC currently offers Practitioner training in Spelling to Communicate (S2C) with the hope that other methods of AAC using spelling or typing will join our association

Posted By on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 in Advocacy,Autism,Community,Families,Motor,Nonspeakers,S2C,Spelling to Communicate

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