2001 Conference Proceedings

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WHAT'S NEW AT PRC?

Barry Romich
Russell Cross
David Hershberger

Introduction

This popular annual presentation at CSUN highlights new developments that have occurred at Prentke Romich Company since the previous CSUN Conference. Those to be shared this year are particularly exciting because they represent a broad range of initiatives. Pathfinder, introduced at CSUN '99, has been further enhanced with the availability of Unity 32. Vanguard software has been updated to include new features. A Minspeak application program is available for people with ALS and other neurological disorders. Web-based self study courses complement the synchronous distance learning previously available. Language activity monitoring (LAM) has evolved into a commercially available tool useful to support evidence-based AAC clinical practice. PRC was awarded a grant by NIH to study the feasibility of a digitized speech LAM. Various sources of Minspeak therapy materials make learning and working with this system easier than ever. The Minspeak picture set CD has been enhanced. Other innovations, not completed as of this proposal, will be introduced at the CSUN Conference.

Pathfinder

Pathfinder was introduced as the first high performance AAC system to combine the communication power of a static selection area (keyboard) for core vocabulary access using Minspeak with the touch screen dynamic display for fringe vocabulary access using single meaning pictures and/or word prediction. Pathfinder was immediately embraced by the AAC community as offering "the best of both worlds." Now one year into it's product lifetime, Pathfinder has been enhanced through the introduction of Unity 32. This Minspeak application provides for 32 keys instead of the usual 128. This means larger icons for people with visual impairments and/or less accurate pointing skills.

Vanguard

Vanguard was the first AAC system to offer all three language representation methods (single meaning pictures, alphabet-based approaches, and semantic compaction) in a single device. Vanguard has been updated to include new features. These include saving and loading pages, which allows for pages to be shared among users. Also, text can be loaded, allowing among other things access to songs and other items that have been prepared either in other AAC devices or on a computer. Finally, the language activity monitor (LAM) (see below) is now available as a built-in feature.

AQLS

Since CSUN '99, the Alphabetic Quick Learning System (AQLS) Minspeak program has become available. This program is intended for literate individuals who may not have the time to learn a higher performance language representation system but need to communicate faster than is possible using spelling and word prediction. Some have mastered it in under fifteen hours of therapy.

Web-Based Self-Paced Courses

The notion of distance learning as applied to the process of AAC system training was introduced at CSUN '99. Since then, PRC has continued to move ahead with this work and presently offers several courses ranging from "Funding Assistive Technology" and "Introduction to Minspeak" to Unity trainings and individual device trainings. The original PRC distance learning program was based on Internet web site training in a real time synchronous virtual classroom environment. For many applications, this approach replaces the old method of getting in a car and driving to some training venue to attend a workshop. A negative side of the virtual classroom approach is scheduling. All students and the instructor must be logged on at the same time. Also, participation requires both a speakerphone and Internet access. In 2000, a graduate student intern in instructional technology helped PRC establish a set of self-study courses based on the work previously done. These courses can be taken at the convenience of the student. Explore the PRC web site www.prentrom.com for more information.

Language Activity Monitor

At the 1999 CSUN Conference, Katya Hill (Edinboro University of Pennsylvania) and Barry Romich introduced the concept of automated language activity monitoring (LAM). With support from National Institutes for Health, the feasibility of LAM was explored and positive results were reported. Concurrently and coincidentally the concept of evidence-based practice has been evolving. LAM data now is being used to support AAC evidence-based clinical practice. Language activity monitoring (LAM) is the recording of language events (one or more letters and/or words) together with the time of day in a 24 hour format with one second resolution. This information can be gathered in structured settings as in a traditional therapy session or in the natural environment over the course of several days. Here is an example of a logged utterance: 07:17:38 "I want " 07:17:43 "something " 07:17:49 "to drink ". The LAM function is available in three forms: 1) as a built-in feature of modern high performance AAC systems, 2) as an add-on device for use with older AAC systems that have a serial port representation of language events, and 3) as PC-LAM, software that allows a PC to serve the LAM function. PC-LAM is useful in the clinical environment where the AAC device can be connected to the computer. Once uploaded into a computer, LAM data can be edited and analyzed to produce summary measures of communication performance. Another CSUN presentation focuses on these summary measures. NIH recently awarded Prentke Romich Company another grant to explore the feasibility of the LAM function for use with AAC devices that use digitized speech. With these devices, no textual representation of the content of the language event is available.

Minspeak Therapy Materials

Several speech-language pathologists and others working in the field of AAC are now offering Minspeak therapy materials. These items can be invaluable in implementing Minspeak. For a current listing, visit the PRC web site www.prentrom.com.

Minspeak Picture Set

The popular Minspeak Picture Set CD is used for creating various Minspeak materials such as overlays, flash cards, labels, etc. The CD has been updated to include all Unity icons (128, condensed, Pathfinder, and AlphaTalker), Words Strategy, IEP+, and LLL. A manual allows generation of a hard copy of the icons. Readers are invited to visit the Prentke Romich Company web site www.prentrom.com for more information on these and other innovations.

Contact

Barry Romich Prentke Romich Company 1022 Heyl Road Wooster, OH 44691-9786 Tel: 330(or 800)-262-1984 ext. 211 Fax: 330-263-4829 Email: bromich@aol.com  PRC: http://www.prentrom.com Join the Grapevine and read Current Expressions Online (CEO)


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