2001 Conference Proceedings

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Peggi McNairn, Ph.D., CCC/SLP, ATP
Education Service Center, Region XI
Ft. Worth, Texas
Email: pmcnairn@aol.com 

Yvonne Smith, LPT, ATP
Arlington Independent School District
Arlington, Texas
Email: ysmith@dougdodgen.com

Selecting and organizing vocabulary and then designing pages for AAC devices with dynamic displays can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive task. Addressing the psycholinguistic needs of the adult client adds to this already overwhelming task. In this presentation, information on an adult-oriented, word-based language program for dynamic screen communication devices will be discussed. Initially designed for adults with aphasia, this vocabulary format has proven to be equally successful with adults with developmental delays.

Historically, dynamic display vocabulary programs have utilized scripted dialogs for targeted communicative exchanges. Unfortunately, for many adults, these prestored messages did not convey exactly what they wanted to say or did not match their internal language structures. Further, multiple pages with numerous links were often challenging for those adults with memory deficits. Ultimately, they would simply "get lost" in the message map.

This presentation will demonstrate a vocabulary program that is designed to overcome those limitations. Research on high frequency vocabulary by individuals such as Beukelman, et. al., Fristoe and Lloyd, and Lasker, et.al. was used to identify initial vocabulary and to serve as a framework. Additional vocabulary obtained from research in nursing homes, senior citizen centers, and independent living centers was added to this framework. Once the core vocabulary set was identified, the issue of how to map out the vocabulary was addressed. Initially, these authors attempted to use a modified Fitzgerald key format with multiple meaning icons, but quickly abandoned it when it proved unsuccessful. Clients with aphasia and developmental delays had difficulty recalling multiple abstract associations when multiple meaning symbols were attempted. They also had difficulty recalling certain parts of speech, such as prepositions, conjunctions, and articles, resulting in telegraphic utterances.

A template was designed that remains consistent throughout each page. This consistency in design helps to facilitate motor automaticity and reduces memory load. On the bottom row of each page are links to parts of speech categories. Each link is also color-coded to assist in developing visual memory skills.

The pages are designed so that each vocabulary word can be accessed from any page with an average of 3 key strokes. The total word count for this program is approximately 3504 words, including derivatives. There are 36 screens programmed with the option to expand to 75 screens.

The use of this adult-oriented, word-based program did not remove or "cure" clients' language deficits. However, it did decrease their frustration with communication and increase their expressive output. The average mean length of utterance (MLU) increased from 2 symbols/words ("Went doctor") to 6 symbol/word combination (Because I went to the doctor.") As a result, the clients and their families report an increase in interactive communication attempts.


Beukelman, D., McGinnis, J., & Morrow, C. (1991). Vocabulary selection in augmentative and alternative communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 7, 1-15.

Beukelman, D., Yorkston, K., Poblete, M. & Naranjo, C. (1984). Frequency of word occurrence in communication samples produced by adult communication aid users. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 49, 360-367.

Fristoe, M. & Lloyd, L.L., (1980). Planning an initial expressive sign lexicon for persons with severe communication impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 45, 170-180.

Lasker, J., Ball, L. Bringewatt, J., Beukelman, D., Stuart, S., & Marvin, C. (1996). Small talk across the life span: AAC vocabulary selection. ASHA.

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