2000 Conference Proceedings
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Developing Language Skills Using IntelliKeys
Jana Birch, M.A.
2346 Wales Drive Cardiff, CA 92007
Development of emerging language skills from one-word
repetition to beginning sentence building can be fostered through
use of IntelliKeys and supportive software such as IntelliPics
and Picture Sentence Key.
Individuals with severe language disorders are often very visual
learners. Use of computer animation offers an opportunity to draw
in the attention of such learners and pair it with the language
we want them to absorb. This presentation will focus on
activities that encourage vocabulary learning beginning with
single word repetition, moving up to combinations of words and
construction of simple sentences.
Use of an IntelliKeys keyboard with a keyguard is an excellent
way to present vocabulary in the form of picture symbols. The
keyguard serves to define the active area in which to point and
also prevents the student from easily moving or playing with the
paper overlay used. Students with accurate mouse or touch display
control may also be able to access these programs from a screen
display. Switch users can access IntelliPics in a cause and
effect mode. A selection of switch scanning methods is available
in Picture Sentence Key.
Single word repetition
IntelliPics offers the opportunity to create custom activities.
Picture items can be assigned both a sound and a spoken word, a
movement and an animation. If we wish to maximize the visual draw
of a picture item, it is recommended to combine these features so
that they happen automatically when a picture item is
When creating an activity, a Picture Item should be selected
first. It can be chosen from the picture library that comes with
IntelliPics or from a separate library such as the Mayer-Johnson
Picture Communication Symbols available in Boardmaker. It can
also be chosen from a picture scanned in or taken from a digital
camera. In this case it is recommended to paste the picture first
into a simple graphic program and making a lasso around the main
outline of the picture or carefully erasing extraneous
background. Then the main cut-out of the picture can be copied to
the clipboard and pasted into IntelliPics when creating a Picture
The spoken word is located under "Advanced Features." Here the
word for the picture item should be recorded. Whenever recording
a sound you want to have as little "dead time" as possible
without cutting off part of the word. This goes for spoken word,
sound effects and speech recorded within a quiz.
"Sound" can be used as a sound effect for motivation, but if the
student is likely to confuse that sound effect with the word or
repeat it inappropriately, the sound could also be used to repeat
the spoken word in another voice or as part of a sentence. For
students drawn to music, a short song a piece of music could be
recorded into this feature. This seems to be particularly
effective with students having Rett’s Syndrome.
A variety of movements are already created within the
IntelliPics program. You can also create your own movement. You
can even attach sound to the movement. Be careful to select a
movement that still displays the picture when the movement is
finished. "Crash," "Fly Away" or "Melt" are not good choices for
a student whose attention is fleeting, because the picture is no
longer there when the movement is finished.
Under "Advanced Features" you have the opportunity to change the
size of your picture item by selecting scaling. For increased
emphasis you may want to enlarge it to 200%.
You also can choose to enable "Frame Animation." This is a
1) First you must create a second picture that is slightly
different from the first. To do this you can use any graphic
program. KidPix or HyperStudio work fine. On a blank screen paste
your original picture. Then lasso a part of the picture and move
or alter it. For example, you can make a tail wag, arms wave, or
eyes blink. Try to keep the main part of your picture centered in
a similar manner as the first. Then copy your new picture to the
2) Go back to IntelliPics, Advanced Features and select Frame
Animation and check either the box for looped or repeated
3) Go back to Picture Item and paste the second picture right
over the first. The scroll bar below the picture will become
active and you can then scroll between the pictures attached to
that picture item.
Sometimes you don’t want to use both movement and frame
animation, especially if the movement is fast. Experiment to see
what works best. As you experiment you can also adjust speed to
have the movement best fit the sound that goes with it.
When you have added all these features to your picture item,
click "Done" and test it out. To test it during the create mode,
make sure you have checked Picture Items displayed under Activity
Preferences. Continue to create Picture Items, saving your
activity when it matches the keyguard or number of choices that
you want to use. Then create an Overlay according to your manual.
If you wish to add pictures to your activity, first rename it
using "Save As..." and a slightly different name. Do this right
away because changes are saved automatically in IntelliPics. When
you have added enough pictures to match the next level of
keyguard, create another Overlay. Overlay names should always
match the name of the activity exactly plus the word "Overlay."
If you wish to adapt this activity for cause and effect control
with a single switch, you can go to "Activity Preferences" and
select "Click Response." Then mark the option for "Goes to next
item." A switch can be connected through the IntelliKeys or any
Many students who are highly distractible may do better in
"Quiz" mode when they are told what to do. To create a Quiz, pull
down to Quiz beneath the Create menu. Follow the manual to create
a quiz, but keep your instructions and corrections as brief as
possible, especially if you are working with someone with a short
attention span. You may need to edit and refine your quiz to get
it to work smoothly. Once you have the ideal quiz however, you
can copy and paste it into any other activity that uses the name
of picture items as a "token" in the quiz. (i.e., "Find the
____.") Quizzes can be designed to show a prompt item for
matching pictures or to leave the prompt picture out so that the
student must match to the spoken name.
You should now have an excellent IntelliPics activity which
provides sound, speech, color, movement and maybe even animation.
To simplify the screen, go to "Activity Preferences" and take all
the checks off of the list of display items. Then just use the
IntelliKeys for access. If this still does not draw in the
attention of the student, add in your own prompting, modeling and
reinforcement. If the student is developing speech, encourage him
or her to repeat the word. If the student has better object
recognition, you may want to pair the picture with an object at
first, or a cut out card attached to the active spot with velcro.
This is an excellent way to build vocabulary and picture-word
Two or three-word combinations
You can modify these same activities slightly to display colors,
size and/or numbers as part of the symbols to choose from. Select
"Activity Preferences" and check the desired boxes for a screen
display. Or select Make Overlay and choose the desired boxes to
include in the overlay. When working in this mode, encourage the
student to select the picture first, then tell about the picture.
When the picture plays back, (i.e. "red ball" or "3 red balls"
encourage the student to listen, then repeat or ask the student
to repeat the description to you. If you are using numbers in the
activity, be sure you have recorded plural versions of the spoken
Creating four-word sentences
Picture Sentence Key is designed to allow guided exploration that
enables students to create sentences that fit the WHO IS DOING
WHAT structure. Consistent reinforcement of appropriate choices
while ignoring inappropriate choices, assists the student in
creating a sentence making four selections. The sentence is then
expanded into its full form (i.e. "boy is eat cracker" expands to
"The boy is eating a cracker." Color animation is built-in as a
motivator as well as an illustration of the sentence just
created. A series of levels of IntelliKeys overlays are pre-made,
designed to progress from one verb with only appropriate object
choices available up to three or four verbs with object choices
specific to each verb. Overlays are designed to match the 12, 15
and 20-hole keyguards that allow for four columns of choices.
They can be printed using Overlay Maker. Custom overlays can also
be designed using Overlay Maker.
Picture Sentence Key can also be used directly through screen
access using a touch display or other mouse-compatible device or
through switch control. Switch control is appropriate for a
student ready to move beyond the cause and effect mode of switch
control because choices are guided by scanning only the
appropriate column. This gives the beginning switch user the
experience of creating sentences without the requirements of
advanced scanning skills.
The combination of using IntelliPics and Picture Sentence Key
enables one to work with emerging language skills progressing
from single words up to four-word sentences. This provides an
excellent opportunity to focus attention of students with severe
language disabilities using a combination of seeing pictures and
movements combined with hearing appropriate speech all within a
Picture Sentence Key for Windows was developed by Computerade
Products. It is available from:
P. O. Box 1579
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Picture Communication Symbols, Boardmaker, Board-Builder, and
Picture Sentence Key for Macintosh are also products of the
IntelliKeys, IntelliPics and Overlay Maker are products of:
55 Leveroni Court, Suite 9
Novato, CA 94949
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Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.