1999 Conference Proceedings

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Picture Sentence Key for Windows

Jana Birch, M.A.
Computerade Products
2346 Wales Drive
Cardiff, CA 92007

(760) 942-3343
email: jbirch@cts.com

Picture Sentence Key is designed to help children learn to structure a simple sentence by providing a limited number of word choices and animated action illustrating the sentence upon successful completion. Words are represented with Picture Communication Symbols. Only correct and possible choices are reinforced, motivating students to attend carefully and make thoughtful selections.

The original version of Picture Sentence Key was developed in 1991 by Ann K. Morgan, M.S., for the Macintosh computer. It was based on Edith Fitzgerald's Straight Language Key methodology, adapted by Grace Cavanagh at P.S. 176 in New York City in consultation with Elisa Cohen, M.S., C.C.C., Speech and Language Pathologist.

Picture Sentence Key for Windows uses the same vocabulary and format as the original. It has been updated with full color animation, improved record keeping features and the ability to expand or limit the number of choices available at one time. It can be accessed via a mouse, Touch Window, single switch or Intellikeys.

Picture Sentence Key teaches the user to form sentences by making four selections based on the structure, "WHO IS DOING WHAT." Six choices are available for WHO: he, she, they, the boy, the girl, the children. The user must select between "is" or "are." Six DOING verbs are available: eating, drinking, pouring, washing, petting, reading. Then nineteen object words are available in the WHAT category: hot dog, milk, ice cream, pizza, pretzel, apple, hamburger, french fries, juice, book, dishes, dog, face, hand.

The teacher can select which of the above choices will be displayed on the choice board. The default display, like the original Picture Sentence Key, shows three choices in each of three columns for WHO, DOING, WHAT. The teacher can choose to hide choices or to show up to four choices in each column. An extra column of choices can be added for the WHAT category, allowing up to eight choices of object to be displayed at one time.

Words on the choice board are displayed as root words with a Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbol. As the words are selected, they are pronounced and expanded into the appropriate form to make a syntactically correct sentence. (i.e., "boy-is-eat-cracker" expands to "The boy is eating a cracker.", The picture symbol appears below the animation screen and the expanded form of the written word or phrase appears in the sentence box below. When a full sentence is formed an animated drawing illustrates the action and the sentence is repeated in its syntactically correct form.

Picture Sentence Key has been designed so that the task of selecting symbols can be simplified to the level of a student who is just learning sentence structure. The student then hears and sees the syntactically correct form of the sentence repeated. This provides an accurate model for some of the earliest grammatical morphemes that occur in language development: the present progressive [Äing] and the noun plural [-s].

The addition of access through the Intellikeys expanded keyboard makes it possible for students with physical limitations to now use Picture Sentence Key. It can be a useful training tool for students who will eventually use an augmentative communication device. It can also be useful for students who have difficulty attending. The choice board can be represented on the Intellikeys while only the animation and selected sentence is displayed on the monitor.

Picture Sentence Key is aimed at students who need to learn language structure. The original version has demonstrated excellent results when used with children with autism. A videotape is available from Mayer-Johnson Company demonstrating the progress of such students. Children with autism and related language disorders often have difficulty with social relationships, but they tend to have a great interest in the computer. Providing instruction through the computer gives us the ability to focus these children on the essential elements of the language task. Picture Sentence Key is designed to reinforce only appropriate responses. The enhanced graphics and flexibility in number of symbols displayed is expected to make this an even more versatile teaching tool. Picture Sentence Key for Windows is available from:

Mayer-Johnson Company
P. O. Box 1579
Solana Beach, CA 92075-7579
tel: (619) 550-0049
fax: (619) 550-0449
Web Site: www.mayer-johnson.com

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