2002 Conference Proceedings

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Bruce Baker
Semantic Compaction
1000 Killarney Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15234
412-885-8541 (phone)
minspeak@sgi.net (email)

Amy Dougherty, CCC-SLP and Tracy Agate, CCC-SLP
Speak Your Mind, LLC
732-493-5900 ext. 2513
amydoug@monmouth.com or trac0129@aol.com

For many years professionals have struggled with determining ways to expand vocabulary on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems without recourse to a multiple levels approach with its attendant navigation issues. Without the ability to spell, individuals are limited to vocabulary that can be represented in symbolic forms. Limited vocabulary sets, particularly those without the non-picturable core vocabulary words, forces non-readers to deal with complex reading issues before being able to communicate simple thoughts. The dependence on reading for non-readers, and the multiple layers of levels/locations/menus system can negatively impact an individual's communicative competence. Such literacy and/or levels-based communication systems can result in communication breakdowns, messages of limited complexity, syntactic appropriateness, and a lack of AAC system use (Beukelman & Mirenda, 1998).

In 1980, Baker designed an iconic encoding technique referred to as semantic compaction, or Minspeak(r). Minspeak uses sequences of icons that are combined to retrieve words, phrases, and sentences in voice-output AAC devices manufactured by the Prentke Romich Company and Saltillo Corporation. Using semantically/linguistically organized icons provides the AAC user with access to a large vocabulary without recourse to reading or navigating through pages/levels/menus. The icons used on the traditional Unity(r) Minspeak Application Programs (MAP) are rich in detail to assist the user in learning the multiple meanings each icon represents. Many students, however, are introduced to the world of language through the Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols (PCS). To move students from PCS to the more traditional Minspeak symbols means a new learning process both for student and language clinician or teacher.

Though PCS were created to depict apparent meanings; they also may depict abstract vocabulary concepts (Mayer Johnson, 1981). Existing familiarity with a symbol set may increase the potential to improve an AAC user's ability to develop language in a Minspeak-based system. Just as the use of Blissymbolics in a semantic compaction MAP has provided Blissymbol users in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Sweden with access to voice output.

Individuals who demonstrate the ability to use symbol sequencing to relate meaning to PCS and have a basic understanding of grammar concepts may be appropriate candidates to use the Easicon(tm) 128 language software application program. Easicon was developed to serve as a tool to promote the development of expressive language skills.

Case study analyses focusing on the communication skills of users of Easicon 128 will be presented, including data collected utilizing the Digital Language Activity Monitor (D-LAM), of Prentke Romich Company, on a DeltaTalker(tm). Previous AAC interventions documented that AAC consumers who were already accustomed to PCS symbols could learn the Minspeak language approach using PCS symbols. As a result, these individuals were taught to use a 128-location static display system with Unity two-hit vocabulary using PCS symbols. Minspeak was selected because these augmented communicators were not candidates to use reading-based dynamic display communication systems. Many disadvantages of these reading-based systems were observed during system setup (e.g., lack of sufficient vocabulary, supplemental low-tech displays were not always available, increased communication breakdowns). The data will reveal an increase in expressive language, vocabulary, length of messages, and communicative competence as a result of the combination of PCS with the natural grammar style of the Unity set up.

To date, the Easicon 128 vocabulary software application program is available for use with the DeltaTalker and Pathfinder AAC devices by the Prentke Romich Company in IBM and MAC formats. Additional information on the Easicon 128 vocabulary program can be obtained on-line by reviewing www.saltillo.com. Easicon 128 can be ordered by calling Saltillo Corporation at 1-800-382-8622.

Easicon(tm) has been developed for Semantic Compaction Systems using its many US, European, other international patents, and copyrights, especially Unity(r) and Words Strategy(r). Permission to use PCS has been obtained from the Mayer-Johnson Company.


Baker, Bruce R., (1986). Words Strategy(r), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA: Semantic Compaction Systems.

Beukelman, D., & Mirenda, P. (1998). Augmentative and alternative communication: Management of severe communication disorders in children and adults (2nd ed.). Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.

Luberoff-Badman, A., Baker, B., Banajee, M., Cross, R., Lehr, J., Maro, J., & Zucco, M. (1997). Unity"128 Version Tour Guide. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA: Semantic Compaction Systems.

Mayer Johnson, R. (1981). Picture Communication Symbols. Solana Beach, California, USA: Mayer-Johnson Company.

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