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Kristen Newman, M.A. CCC-SLP
Linda V. Klotz, M.A. CCC-SLP
Prentke Romich Company
1022 Heyl Road
Wooster, OH 44691
Speech-language-pathologists have worked on improving language and communication skills, of people who speak, for years. Typically the areas of focus in speech-language therapy include:
"There is evidence, for example, from the field of emergent literacy, that reading, writing, speaking, and listening develop concurrently and interrelatedly" (Erickson, 1996). Others note that typical vocabulary development "is the result of the child's natural curiosity, from reading books, listening to stories, asking questions, playing games, holding conversations, watching TV and movies, and being actively engaged in the literate environment" (Montgomery, 1993).
Since effective communication depends upon the working relationship of all of these areas, intervention that encompasses all of them simultaneously may be the most powerful. Sometimes working with individuals using AAC, we become intimated by or too focused on the technology. While it may be necessary to teach some device operation, it is important to focus on the ultimate goal -- to effectively use language to communicate.
Teaching effective communication to those using AAC can be very similar to teaching those who speak. Suggested guidelines may include:
This will make learning language and communication meaningful and fun for the individual. It will also help individuals generalize skills across situations.
Words allow a person to say exactly what they want to say. While pre-stored phrases and sentences can be useful, words promote independent self-expression.
It is important to teach core words (words we all use frequently across situations) supplemented by words that are specific to the activities.
Core words are powerful because they can be used across a variety of activities. For example, if we teach the words -- I, it, like, more, that, not, turn, want-- individuals can say words and phrases such as "more" "not" "want more" "want that" "turn it" "I want that" "I like it" "not want it" "turn it more".
Activity specific words can add power within the activity. If we teach words specific for cooking and coloring activities, such as -- sugar, stir, cookie, chocolate, paper, crayon, green -- individuals can combine core words with the activity specific words to say phrases such as "more sugar" "stir it" "I want cookie" "I like chocolate" "more paper" "I want crayon" "I not like green".
Teaching effective language and communication skills can be done not only by speech-language-pathologists, but also by a variety of support people including parents, care-givers, teachers, assistants, peers, and family members. And, teaching can be fun! We can use games, books and other items that are readily available. In order to promote optimal involvement of individuals as well as teach language and communication skills, We can adapt games and activities in a variety of ways. Sample adaptations include:
The following are just a few examples of games and activities that can be used to teach language and communication skills, as well as some ideas for adaptations. Please note that the suggestions for intervention goals, targeted vocabulary and adaptations can be modified (reduced or increased) depending upon the skills and needs of the players.
Object of the Game: Collect the most pairs of pictures.
Intervention Goals: Social interaction, turn taking, asking and answering questions, making comments, matching, labeling, counting
Targeted Core Vocabulary: I, you, it, my, your, turn, go, do, have, a, want, get, yes, no
Targeted Activity Specific Vocabulary: cheat, win, lose, fish, picture names of cards used, numbers
Sample Words and Phrases: I want (picture name). Go get it. Do you have a (picture name). Go fish. My turn. Your turn. I win. You lose. I have (number of cards).
Language Adaptations: Simplify the phrases to include core vocabulary. Players can show or point to the card they are requesting rather than labeling it.
Physical Adaptations: Place cards in a card holder. Put the "go fish" pile on a Velcro board, or in a card holder. Use pairs of objects instead of picture cards.
Object of the Game: Guess your opponent's Mystery Person before your opponent guesses yours, by asking yes/no questions.
Intervention Goals: Social interaction, critical thinking, turn taking, asking and answering questions, making comments, literacy, vocabulary development (attributes, colors, people, body parts, clothing).
Targeted Core Vocabulary: I, you, he, she, it, my, your, turn, is, does, have, a, yes, no, not
Targeted Game Specific Vocabulary: cheat, win, lose, big, little, bald, red, yellow, gray, brown, black, green, hair, eyes, nose, ear, eyes, mouth, mustache, beard, hat, glasses, earrings, bald, man, woman, person
Sample Words and Phrases: Is it a man? Does he have brown hair? Does she have glasses? Yes. No. My turn. Your turn. I win.
Language Adaptations: Players can use shorter, simpler questions. Use other category pictures (e.g. food, animals, vehicles).
Physical Adaptations: Players can point to the picture to flip down using a light, finger, headstick etc. Remove pictures from the game, apply Velcro to the back of each and place on fabric; the players can remove pictures from the fabric as they are eliminated.
Object of the Game: Yell out as many answers as possible, in 60 seconds, that fit familiar categories. To score points, answers must appear on the topic card.
Intervention Goals: Social interaction, turn taking, making comments, literacy, word retrieval, categorization, counting.
Targeted Core Vocabulary: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, my, our, your, turn, say, got, yes, no, not
Targeted Game Specific Vocabulary: win, lose, numbers, specific items within categories used in game
Sample Words and Phrases: Say (category name). (Specific category items). We got (number). Our turn. Not your turn. We win.
Language Adaptations: Allow players more, or unlimited time. Simplify categories and prompts. Allow any valid answer.
Physical Adaptations: Tally points by dropping a token into a can. Make larger, untinted topic cards.
Just as games and leisure activities can be used to build language and communication skills, everyday activities (e.g. circle time, cooking, singing, playing with toys, at a work station, science) can be used as well. Within virtually any activity, people can be provided with practice listening to, reading and speaking words (both core and activity specific), building sentences and communicating for a variety of reasons. This can lead people to achieve the ultimate goal -- "to independently, effectively communicate" (Creech, 1995).
Baker, B. (1997). Activity Based Learning Using Core Vocabulary Paper presented at the Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, California State University at Northridge (CSUN), Northridge, CA.
Blackstone, S. (1992). Augmentative Communication News. Vol 5, No. 4. Monterey, CA: Augmentative Communication, Inc.
Burkhart, L. (1993). Total Augmentative Communication in the Early Childhood Classroom. Eldersburg, MD: Linda J.Burkhart
Creech, R. (1995). Phone conversation.
Elder, S., & Goossens', C. (1994). Engineering Training Environments for Interactive Augmentative Communication. Birmingham, AL: Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference Publications
Erickson, K. (1996). From Picture Producers to Real Language and Literacy: A Practical Guide. Paper presented at the 10th US Minspeak Conference, Wooster, OH.
Goossens', C., Crain, S. & Elder, P. (1994). Engineering the Preschool Environment for Interactive Symbolic Communication. Birmingham, AL: Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference Publications
King-DeBaun, P. (1990). Storytime. Ackworth, GA: Pati King DeBaun.
Light, J. (1997). "Communication is the Essence of Human Life": Reflections on Communicative Competence. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Vol 13/Number 2.
Montgomery, J. (1993). A Closer Look at Vocabulary Development. California Speech-Language-Hearing Association Newsletter. July/August.
Musselwhite, C. (1988). Adaptive Play and Microcomputers. Workshop at Irene Wortham Center, Asheville, NC.
Musselwhite, C., King-DeBaun, P. (1997). Emergent Literacy Success: Merging Technology with Whole Language for Students with Disabilities. Birmingham, AL: Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference Publications
Poole, A. (1996). HELP!! No Books for Me!: Age Appropriate Adolescent Symbol Books. Paper presented at the 17th Annual Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference, Birmingham, AL
Valot, L. (1995). BUILLD for Unity(R) 128 Version. Wooster, OH: Prentke Romich Company
Valot, L. (1996). BUILLD for Unity AlphaTalker(TM) Version. Wooster, OH: Prentke Romich Company
Valot, L., Badman, A., & Cross, R. (1997). Learning and Using Language with Unity and Builld for the AlphaTalker. Paper presented at the Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, California State University at Northridge (CSUN), Northridge, CA.
Guess Who, Milton Bradley, Springfield, MA
Outburst, Jr, Western Publishing Company, USA
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