2003 Conference Proceedings

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Dick Stein
Oakland Unified School District/Cerebral Palsy Center for the Bay Area
4500 Lincoln Avenue
Oakland, CA 94602
Phone: (510) 531-3323
Email: cpcoak@mindspring.com

Alice Wong
College of Alameda
555 Atlantic Avenue
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: (510) 748-2115
Email: alwong@peralta.cc.ca.us

This multimedia session will present a variety of computer-based activities designed to teach the augmentative and alternative (AAC) Unity(R) language system (Symantic Compaction Systems) that is based on the Minspeak(R) (Symantic Compaction Systems) language method. It will also present sequential computer-based activities designed to promote and increase preliteracy. The authors will present a bottom to top approach for teaching Unity for the Vantage and Vanguard that also has direct application to the other Prentke-Romich Company communication devices. They will demonstrate how authoring software, Speaking Dynamically Pro(TM) (Mayer-Johnson Company) can be used to teach Unity vocabulary patterns and navigational features as well as Minsymbol(R) (Symantic Compaction Systems) categorization concepts.

The authors will present how Speaking Dynamically Pro can be used to teach preliteracy using Minsymbols. Preliteracy activities will cover nine curriculum areas including discrimination, classification, identification and phonics. The authors will present how the computer-based activities can be used to measure student progress in using and understanding Unity and preliteracy concepts. The value of the computer to teach AAC and preliteracy skills will also be addressed.

Over the past ten years, computers have come to play an increasingly integral role in the education of individuals with severe speech and physical impairments due, in part, to the following reasons: (a) computers can be accessed by anyone who can consistently and reliably move any part of their body; (b) computers provide access to learning through multiple accessibility features; (c) lessons can be self-paced and users can learn independently; (d) computers using authoring software can simulate the features of many AAC systems; (e) computers provide consistent, non-judgmental and positive feedback; (f) computers can provide a multimedia learning environment, (g) software can be adapted to address users at different levels of ability, knowledge and skill; and (h) activities can be individualized based on the user's interest and cultural background. Additionally, computers are non-threatening, fun to use and self-esteem building when users achieve success through easy-to-master activities. If users are paired or work in small groups, computers can provide opportunities for turn taking and socialization that are, in turn, important communication skills.

Computers are ideal for the purpose of emulating a communication system, since many of the features and techniques used to communicate with a dedicated AAC system are easily simulated on a computer. This is especially true when the authoring software, Speaking Dynamically Pro, is used to create boards that have the look and feel of the AAC device they are intended to emulate. The authors will present ways that Speaking Dynamically Pro can be used to create boards that mimic Unity on the Vanguard and Vantage communication devices. They will then discuss and demonstrate how the boards can be adapted to measure the user's competency and skill at finding and selecting Unity symbols as well as the user's competency in using the Unity language system.

The authors will present ways in which Minsymbols can be used to teach preliteracy. These activities are especially beneficial to Unity users as they reinforce Unity concepts while teaching preliteracy skills but they are also of significant value to all individuals who are developing preliteracy skills. The specific sequential goals of these activities are:

  1. to increase the user's knowledge and skills of computer input devices, for example, a switch or touch screen;

  2. to increase the user's understanding of "cause and effect" concepts;

  3. to improve the user's ability to discriminate colors, shapes, objects, Minsymbols, letters and numbers;

  4. to increase the user's sorting, grouping and classification skills;

  5. to improve the user's ability to identify colors, shapes, objects, Minsymbols, letters and numbers;

  6. to improve the user's listening skills;

  7. to improve the user's ability to sequence and recall information;

  8. to improve the user's problem-solving skills;

  9. to increase the user's understanding of position, direction and quantitative concepts;

  10. to improve the user's phonics skills; and

  11. to improve the user's reading and writing skills.

The Vanguard and Vantage use dynamic display screens that enable the user to electronically change the screen content. When the user, for example, touches an activity row category, such as "Greetings", the activity row changes to display commonly used greetings. This process can be simulated on a computer using Speaking Dynamically Pro because it uses a "change board" feature that emulates a dynamic display.

A computer can also provide access training for the AAC user. The Touch Window(R) by Edmark(R) provides touch sensitivity that is like that of communication devices with touch sensitive screens. The Touch Window attaches over the computer screen and enables individuals who use direct selection and head pointers to hone their input skills. Switch uses can scan the Minsymbols on PRC communication devices and can do the same by using scanning options in Speaking Dynamically Pro or other authoring programs such as IntelliTalk II(R) by IntelliTools(R).

The session will conclude with time for questions, answers and comments.


IntelliTools(R), Inc.
IntelliTalk II(R) 2000
Petaluma, California

Mayer-Johnson Company
Speaking Dynamically Pro(tm) V.2.0.1 1990-97
Solana Beach, California

Prenke Romich Company
Vantage and Vanguard Communication Devices
Wooster, OH

Semantic Compaction Systems
Minsymbols (R)
Pittsburgh, PA

Touch Window (R)
Edmark (R), Inc.
Redmond, Washington

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