Region 2 Digital Lending Library
NEW DEVICE - PROXTALKER
The information below presents typical language development. There is a wide range of normal development. Most children will not follow the chart to the letter. If your child seems significantly behind in language development, you should talk with your child's physician regarding your questions and concerns.
Gossens, Elder-Aided Language Stimulation:
King-DeBaun-Aided Language Stimulation
AAC 101 A Crash Course for Beginners
Welcome to what I call AAC 101. Just what is augmentative and alternative communication? In plain English, if you sound as if you have a mouth full of oatmeal when you talk, there are people and things to help you communicate by means other than natural speech.
Who? These people who know about AAC can be speech—language pathologists, occupational therapists, educators, engineers or others. I will refer to them as "AAC professionals or communication specialists". AAC is complicated and requires the participation of lots of people in many different roles. Sometimes they work as an AAC team. Vital members are the person who uses or hopes to use AAC to communicate and his or her family. (Yes you!) A team may also include an administrator, payer, vocational rehabilitation counselor, physical therapist, visual impairment specialist, manufacturer and anyone else who may be able to help you communicate better.2
What? Things that can help you communicate include parts of your body as well as assistive technology.
Fortunately the importance of gestures as a communicative tool is now recognized by communication specialists. Everyone uses gestures and facial expressions to communicate. The next time you are watching your favorite comedian or politician ( perhaps they are one in the same person) watch how she uses her hands and face to season what she saying. If you use some gesturing, try to build on this skill.
Gestures can get you a cup of coffee in the morning, but they do a poor job of telling your friend about that delicious piece of cake you had the other night. Gestures can only express things in the here and now. Also, gestures are poor candidates for expressing things like truth and beauty.
To be able to talk about such abstractions as well as the past and the future, we use symbols. Symbols are visual, auditory and/or tactile representations of conventional objects, actions, ideas or whatever.2 Photographs, manual signs, pictographs, objects/textures, printed words, spoken words, and Braille are all symbols. We use four main kind of symbols in AAC: spoken words, written words, signs, and graphic symbols
Now let’s look at how graphic symbols are used on non-electronic communication devices. The primary feature of these aids is the communication display. Communication display is a logical arrangement of language items grouped within physical boundaries for easy access.3 Communication displays include letter boards, alphabet cards, symbol boards, eye gaze systems and even pictures on the bathtub wall. While non-electric communication displays are often considered slow and inefficient, they can be extremely quick when used by a skilled communicator talking to an equally skilled partner.
Communication displays are fairly inexpensive and easy to make. The tricky (and costly) part is the design. Much thought and activity goes into a communication display before it is actually produced. One of the most important elements the AAC team works on is vocabulary selection. No matter who you are, adult or child , vocabulary is your potential key to power. People who control what goes on your communication display control what you do with your life by deciding what you say. It is vital that you and your family play a critical role in the selection of the vocabulary. You need lots of it–more than you think, and you’ll need even more as you go along.
Once the vocabulary is selected, graphic symbols that will best express it and will work best for you and your communication partners are selected. The whole AAC team, especially the consumer and family must understand the rationale for selecting the graphic symbols that will be used.
The communication display designer(s) consider the size and arrangement for symbols, and a person’s reaching and pointing abilities. These and many other physical and cognitive factors go into the design of a communication display before any symbols are arranged on a surface.
Organizing a display
Once you decide on the physical shape of the display and the symbols to use, the next task is to organize them in a logical way. I am a chronic reader. I read everything I can get my hands on. If I were to dump everything I read in the middle of the living room floor, not only would I make my wife very unhappy, I would never be able to find anything I wanted, so I categorize my reading materials in various ways.
The same thing applies to communication displays. You can’t start dumping language items on a display every which way and expect them to be easy to use. Language items must be organized in some sort of logical manner. Here are some of the ways to do this.3, 12
Thematic: groupings based on events such as going out to eat,
watching a baseball game, attending church or visiting grandmother.
The phase "only one to a customer" definitely does not apply to communication displays. You will probably get several at a crack and acquire more over time as your communication universes expand. You’ll want one for each activity that you do; whether you are on the job, at home watching television or at the old ballpark enjoying a hot dog and a beer, you’ll need to communicate.
Another way to communicate is with sign language. It was developed in France in the eighteenth century for use by people with hearing impairments. Sign language has spread through the world with as many variations as there are countries. People in the United States primarily use American Sign Language (ASL).15
Great interest has been shown in teaching sign language to people with significant communication disabilities. This interest was inspired in part by attempts to teach sign language to chimpanzees. If a chimp could learn to communicate with sign language, why couldn’t a person with mental retardation? 5
People who successfully use manual signs have good motor sequencing skills and have the cognitive ability to associate a hand movement with a particular object or event.8
Since sign language is an unaided communication system, you don’t need anything but your body to use it; it can’t get lost; it can’t be broken; and you can’t forget to bring it with you.8 On the other hand, there are some major disadvantages to sign language. Both communication partners must know sign language, and this limits whom you can talk to. Institutional settings present special problems for people who use sign. Because of staff turnover, staff must continually be trained and retrained in the use of sign.8
The use of sign language by people who hear and don’t speak is not the best choice for as many people as initially thought, and it is never the only choice. Still, manual signs are useful for many people.
The importance of environment
The environment of a person affects how successful she will be in learning various components of her communication system. If the person does not live in an environment that accepts AAC as a meaningful form of communication, learning will not occur.5 An ideal learning environment is filled with social interaction. Social interaction among learners and competent AAC communicators is particularly important. But the reality is that most people do not live in this kind of environment.
Which gestures, AAC symbols, aids, signs and devices you end up using depends on what you are like. Your communication system must fit YOU: your preferences, attitudes, commitment to learning and abilities. You will know your system, with all its AAC components, is working for you when it gives you the ability to exert power, affect your environment and spontaneously indicate your ideas and desires.
This article appears in AS Volume 1, # 1. (Site link:http://www.augcominc.com/articles/as1_1_2.html)
United States Society for Alternative & Augmentative Communication
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