1999 Conference Proceedings

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Yvonne Gillette
The University of Akron
School of Speech Language Pathology
Akron, OH 44325-3001

Jeri Lynn Hoffman
26210 Emery Road, Suite 302
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

The right software and hardware added to your computer can provide you with endless materials and activities that facilitate growth in communication and literacy skills. Your IBM compatible or Macintosh computer can easily become a communication station for a range of learners with communication disabilities. The versatility of the programs illustrated here allow you to develop integrated themes and adapt the level to meet the needs of diverse learners through technology. Software for the communication station includes Boardmaker, Intellikey Overlay Maker, Speaking Dynamically Pro, Logical Language: Pictures to Print, CoWriter and WriteOutloud; hardware beyond the computer itself includes the TouchWindow and IntelliKeys.

The concept of the computer as a communication and literacy station proceeds through four levels leading from exclusive use of pictures to exclusive use of text as the method used to send and receive messages. This approach to computer use makes it possible to meet the needs of learners with diverse abilities, facilitating inclusion in school and community settings. Materials for levels one to four will demonstrate the concept through three themes, "going on a walk", "shopping for food" and reading a book.

Level One: Nonelectronic Pictures with Print

This level uses Boardmaker to develop pictures with print, which you can prepare in two ways. You can laminate and then cut the boards you create into individual pictures, and Velcro the back of each picture. Display on Velcro boards or strips to use pictures so you and your intervention group can use the pictures to comment and request through picture exchange combined with natural speech. You can also create visual vocabulary boards of a few large pictures or many small pictures on laminated 8 1/2x11 sheets of paper.

Application to Themes

Going on a Walk: Prepare a vocabulary board with your intervention group selecting picture/word combinations of items and activities you expect to see on the walk. A nature walk may include a stream, a tree, a squirrel, a flower, a bird, a rock, and similar common words. The board creation activity serves to prepare for using the vocabulary found on the walk. Later, the board can serve as a tool for communicating about the walk, as well as reminders of the vocabulary and spelling of the words during the walk.

Shopping for Groceries: Prepare individual laminated pictures with words and place velcro on the back. Select commonly purchased groceries to illustrate. Use and reuse these picture sets to create shopping lists with these pictures using velcro boards or pages. Remove items from the board as your intervention group selects items from the shelf using the pictures as reminders.

Reading a Book: Create a similar set of pictures with words for key vocabulary related to the book. Distribute the pictures to the group and use the match between the page in the book and the picture/word to make comments, or have learners place the pictures on a velcro vocabulary strip to follow the chronology of the story for later retelling.

Level Two: Electronic Picture Selection Generates Voice + Print Messages.

For this level you can use Speaking Dynamically Pro with Boardmaker , IntelliKeys Overlay Maker, and IntelliTalk with IntelliKeys. In either case you can create picture displays that use picture selection to generate a message using synthetic voice output as well as text on the screen. Speaking Dynamically Pro shows the picture display onscreen and text is generated on a textline. IntelliKeys requires that you print out an overlay and place the overlay on the IntelliKeys. Text is generated on the screen and spoken as well. You and your learners can comment, request, and begin to combine messages more creatively.

Application to Themes

Going on a Walk: Prepare an Intellikeys Overlay with IntelliTools Overlay Maker that includes a range of the words you will find on your walk. For example, a walk down the hall of your building may include doors, an office with a computer and a secretary. The level of complexity of the vocabulary depends on the level of your group. In addition, you can start small, then add more items to the board over time. When you develop the overlay to work in conjunction with IntelliTalk, activating the picture on the overlay will generate print on the screen and also speak the word chosen. The voice output feature can help you use the overlay with the computer as an communication aid because you will not need to be there directly at all times for the group to get the verbal and written model matched to their selection.

Shopping for Groceries: Use Speaking Dynamically Pro to help you write a grocery list in print. Prepare a screen or a series of screens with commonly purchased grocery items. You can use a single screen to include a range of grocery items organized according to their arrangement in the store. Or, when using multiple screens, you can use a menu to lead to various categories of food items.

Examples include dairy, meat/poultry/fish, vegetables, fruit and bakery. When your intervention group selects an item through the mouse, touch screen, or scanning, the item will appear on the text line and be spoken. If the group decides to include the item on the list, a group secretary can copy the print to a written list. Later, the group must use the print they copied as the list to purchase groceries.

Reading a Book: Create an IntelliKeys overlay using Overlay Maker to catalog the key events of the story. For example, vocabulary for the book, The Three Little Pigs could include the following words, Pig 1, Pig 2, Pig 3, Straw, Stick, Brick, Wolf, Blow, Cook, and Happy. While reading the book, use the 3 Pigs overlay to select the key words. The IntelliTalk program will keep a running log of the words selected in print. Once the group finishes the story, print the log and review the story in print. You can also use the log to monitor the work of an independent learner or group by seeing how their log matches the sequence of the story.

Level Three: Electronic Novel Message Generation

For this level use Logical Language: Pictures to Print for Windows or the Speaking Dynamically Pro version for the Macintosh. The program offers a ready made collection of about 1000 words depicted by pictures. It features multiple screens connected through a menu. The menu is driven by a scheme that categorizes these pictured words for easy access.

The program presents the categories through pictures arranged alphabetically and keyed to a letter of the alphabet. It also alphabetizes the pictured words within each category and labels them with first or first and second letter of the word spelling. This emphasis on alphabetical organization helps to draw the learners attention to first and second letter of the word spelling, a skill needed for level four. Level four will move the your learners totally to print without picture cues.

Logical Language: Pictures to Print makes it possible to create novel messages by moving among many screens with about 40 words on each. Your learners with limited literacy skills can produce sentences and small documents in print through picture recognition skills. While working within the program, your learners will develop letter association skills, which will eventually make it possible for them to use word prediction programs with success.

Applications to Themes

Going on a Walk: Use multiple visual screens of Logical Language: Pictures to Print to guide creating a journal entry . about a walk the group just took. Review the process of getting ready for the walk, selecting words from the dressing category to review items like boots, jackets, and hats needed before the walk could start. Move to the outside category to decide whether the sun or clouds accompanied the group on the walk. Review the other visual vocabulary items to make sure everything the group saw is recorded. Create small sentences here and there by combining words, we (people screen ) saw (use two screens to select the action, then the verb forms of see) Cars (select from car/vehicle screen, add an "s' with the onscreen keyboard). When the group is happy with the journal entry, print it out, and file it in the group journal notebook.

Shopping for Groceries: The Logical Language: Pictures to Print program includes multiple screens for food items. Some include vegetables and fruit, general food, common restaurant items, Create a grocery list in print by selecting items from the various screens, followed by a return on the textline. The final printed product will not include the pictures, but can help to determine the group's skill at word recognition on a list of functional items they created together.

Reading a Book: Read The Big Red Barn with your group and have group members select vocabulary from the animal category to comment on each page before the page turns. Print the list of comments and you will have a text-based list of vocabulary words that the group can review without the visual aid of the picture. See how well they do with first letter of the word hints when needed. Match the print item to pages in the book when helpful hints are required.

Level Four: Pictures to Print, Spelling through First Letter of the Word Entry

For this level use CoWriter, a word prediction program combined with Write Outloud, a talking word processor. Learners can enter words through first, then second letter of the word spelling, then hear their messages spoken out loud for a check on accuracy. Use this software combination to allow beginning spellers to explore the world of print without assistance from pictures. When the learners choose the words predicted by numbers, they can participate in error-free learning. Error-free learning results when each effort produces a word. In contrast, random access to a keyboard leads to extraneous typing with little resulting incidental learning.

Learners use word prediction with a talking word processor to 1) explore the world of print, then find out what the print says, 2) to get ideas of things to write about, 3) to produce brief letters and reports, 4) to string together phrases, then sentences by listening to what they say, then revising them.

Application to Themes

Going on a Walk - Learners will write letters to each other about their favorite part of the walk using Co-Writer and Write OutLoud. Then students will listen to each other's version of the walk's highlights by using Write OutLoud to read their letters. Shopping for Groceries: Learners will create a form called Groceries we Keep. The form can be reused to check off the groceries needed from week to week. The list can be modified as time passes to include items forgotten on earlier attempts.

Reading a Book: Learners will write a book report about a book they recently read either individually or as a group. The reports will be compiled in a notebook over time to generate book reviews others can use to help in book selection.


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Juel,C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 4, 437-447.

Koppenhaver, D.A., Coleman, P.P., Kalman, S.L., Yoder, D.E. (1991). The implications of emergent literacy research for children with developmental disabilities. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1 (1), 38-44.

Stein, N. & Glenn, C. (1979). An analysis for story comprehension in elementary school. In R. Freedle (Ed.) New Directions in Discourse Processing Vol. 2. Norwood, NJ:Ablex.

1. VanKleeck, A. (1990). Emergent literacy: Learning about print before learning to read. Topics in Language Disorders, 10(2), 24-45.

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