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School of Computing Science
Middlesex University
Trent Park, Bramley Road,
London, N14 8HR
Email: Elizabeth1@mdx.ac.uk


Children's verbal language development takes place in there home, the school and with the help of Speech and Language Therapy (Stokes, 2001). In order for language to develop, there needs to be a desire to communicate and/or interact with the world. (ICD, 2002).

Research claims that children seem to naturally enjoy playing with words, nursery rhymes and nonsense verses and Hullan (1999) rightly claims, "playing with something is by far the best way to learn about it".

Stokes, (1995) stresses the importance of early intervention. By the age of five, theorists state that children have reached an important period for all aspects of their development. (Larcher & Mitchell, 1995; Lees &Urwin 1994).

It is imperative when speech and language therapists assess children, all aspects of their needs are taken into consideration. (Stokes, 1995, Sage, 1992, Wright, 1994).

Some autistic children are able to use some speech. Therapeutic interventions have been used effectively to develop social and language skills and improved the autistic child's ability to respond to information from their senses. (Comeunity, 2001).

Autistic Therapeutic Interventions

Therapy has been particularly beneficial when it is interactively implemented (Petrie, 1989). However, Onions (1992), Jones (1994) and Kameneva (1999) claim that videos are able to "give the viewer a glimpse of feelings or complexity" which written and printed words cannot quite fulfil to the same extent.

The effectiveness video

Research relating to videos has shown an increase in vocabulary. It has already proven to be an effective way of learning, strengthening academic, communication, social and self-help skills. Herskowitz (2002) a speech pathologist and mother of an autistic boy claims that in her professional opinion "the implementation of computer learning in our children's lives is an extremely effective method of teaching language ".

Picture symbols and literacy software package, have been effectively used with autistics, by teachers, in order to develop the autistics' communication and language skills (Murray, 1997).

Sound can give the printed words a voice, whilst the software becomes alive, animated and interactively stimulating for therapists and/or students working on verbal language development.

A Case Study (2002)

The video element of multimedia software

Multimedia software is a combination of text, animation, sound and video interacting with the users modalities. (Bowen, 2002). Multimedia technology can improve verbal language through various ways and should be used to promote language development. Onions (1992), Jones (1994) and Kameneva (1999).

A case study (2001) was researched by a group of third year undergraduate university students, using a random sample of therapists and parents of autistic children. Quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used investigating 6-11 year old severe learning difficulty (SLD) autistic children.

Evaluation and Results

The quantitative findings showed children take a lot of interest in watching videos, especially Tellytubbies and cartoon characters. Therapists and parents claimed to have used educational videos in the past effectively for verbal language.

The qualitative findings revealed that multimedia software is being used and intensely enjoyed in autistic schools. The therapist and parents state that videos are used to relax, treat and help the children improve their eye contact.

Wood and Davenport (2001) language therapist and creators of the programme Teletubbies were interviewed. They based the language on the emerging speech of young children, at the critical stages of their language development. They concentrated on music, rhythm and used the words from real children. The stories are designed on how children play and use language, through the comedy and interaction of each character. Although, there does not seem to be any documented evidence as to their effectiveness, there are, however, many complimentary anecdotal reports of their positive effects on autistic child's language development.(Hullun, 1999).

Two non-participant observations were carried out. The first, on a mild autistic child and a therapist working together on a set of seven questions. This showed limited "Yes" or " I don't know" responses. However, the second, a severe autistic child and a therapist, using the same set of questions, got a better verbal response. The therapist was more repetitive, animated and interactive, prompting appropriately, encouraging a response by adding extra sentences, bring in their own real-life experiences, using exciting words together with tactile approach (an odd tickle).

The second observation showed the therapist used her own modalities effectively, which in turn produced more verbal language from the child. Reid, et al., (1996) claim that new clinical areas in speech and language therapy are now opening up to innovate "technological advances such as computers, augmentative and alternative communication aids, video .".

Video Prototype

From the findings a prototype was produced, bearing in mind the ongoing interactivity between the autistic child, its modalities, the people and the environment. The objective is to develop verbal language whilst teaching the child how to recognise, learn and draw objects, sing and dance, guess and learn sign language.

Therapists are given instructions to verbalise using questioning, demonstrating real-life objects, drawing, colouring in, singing, dancing and quizzing, whilst the video is running. Bonzi, 1995 states that language intervention programmes should provide natural, real and meaningful clues or situations in which children are encouraged to communicate by participating cooperatively, with social repetitive games, joint activities, etc.

Burton, et. al.'s (1991) claims that this aid would alter the client/therapist relationship, resulting in them working together in partnership "on computer presented tasks" rather then the therapists always being in charge and therefore not making the activity just therapist-directed. They stress strongly that "computers can and have been made for the clinical use of computers in therapy", which they offer as such an alternative and useful form of therapy ". This could also prove a beneficial speech and language aid for children with communication disorders such as autism. (Singleton, 1992)


Although language therapy has been acknowledged as being effectively used, theoretical and analytical evidence have proven that the video element of multimedia software should be considered as a supplement to conventional therapy and thus provide a further aid for verbal language development, without extra demands on the speech and language therapists.

Therefore. well-produced video, made with autistic children's abilities and needs in mind and incorporated within multimedia software, would aid verbal language development. The prototype stated in this paper therefore will be used as part of Model C of a theoretical computerised multimedia therapeutic intervention model (TCMTIM), which will be investigated further in the follow-up research.


Bowen, C. (2002) Speech and Language Development

Bozic, N. (1995) Using Microcomputers in Naturalistic Language Intervention. The Trial ling of the New Approach. British Journal of Learning Disabilities. Vol23 pp59-62.

Burton, E. et al. (1991) Opportunities for using computers in speech and language conventional (traditional) therapy. A study of one language unit.

Comeunity.(2001) Communication in Autism. Children's Disabilities and Special Needs http://www.comeunity.com/disability/speech/autism.html

Herskowitz (2002) Today's Technology offers Optimism for Children with autism to live an independent life http://www.dimonsionspeech.com/articles-techfuture.html. Reprinted from the advocate Newsletter of the Autism Society of America, July-Aug, 1996

Hullan, S (1999) Teletubbies in a classroom

ICD (2002) ICD Information about speech and language.

Jones, N. (1994) Conon Fired by Computer, TES

Kameneva, T. (1999) Pedagogical, Methodological and Practical Aspects of Multimedia Supported Language Learning Environment http://www.elsevier:nl/homepage/sage/cal99/output/abs48.htm

Larcher, J. and Mitchell, D. (1995) Breaking the Silence. Special Children. February pp 26-29.

Lees, J. & Urwin, S (1994) Children With Language Disorders.London:Whurr Publishers Ltd

Murray, D.A. (1997) Information technology: theory with computers. In Powell, S & Jordan, R. Autism and learning a guide to good practice. London:David Fulton pp100-117

Onions, C (1992) Sight and sound, Special Children.Issue 59, September 1992.pp 33-35.

Petrie, P. (1989) Communicating with Children and Adults. Interpersonal skills for Those Working With Babies and Children. London: Edward Arnold.

Reid, et al. (1996) The Role of Speech & Language Therapists in the Education of Pupils with Special Educational Needs. ECRCD Pub

Sage R (1992) Communication and academic success: Oracy Line.

Singleton, C. (1992) The Patient Teacher. Special Children. September 1992.pp 28-32.

Stokes E. (1995) Word-Processing Aids the development of language in an infant class in a special school. Unpublished paper. Middlesex University, London

Stokes, E. (2001) Conventional Speech and Language Therapy vs. Computerised Multimedia Therapy pp 185-194 in Kluev, et al. (Eds). Advances in automation, Multimedia and video systems, and Modern Computer Science WSESPress

A Case Study (2002) Can multimedia software be used therapeutically to aid the verbal language development of infant autistic children with moderate learning difficulty (MLD) unpublished. Third year Project

Wood, A and Davenport, A (2001) Interview by third students at the Middlesex University. Unpublished work.

Wright, J. (1994) - He understands every word say: The Speech and Language Therapist in Sandow S. Whose Special Need? Some perceptions of special education needs. Chapter 6. London: Chapman Publishing Ltd.

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