2003 Conference Proceedings

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Sarah Blackstone and Harvey Pressman
Augmentative Communication, Inc.
1 Surf Way,#237
Monterey, CA 93940

The Talking Photo Album is a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-use device that has many potential applications for people with disabilities. One of its best features is its flexibility. You can record four minutes of speech, 10 seconds at a time, in any language of your choice. You can use digital photos, book cutouts, symbols, drawings, regular photos, Xeroxes, newspaper clippings, letters, tracings, whatever, on each of page [and the book we will be talking about has 24 pages.] You can use it for instructions, to tell stories, to record autobiographical information, to facilitate daily conversation, to help order in restaurants, to facilitate memory and for scores of other purposes.

Talking Photo Albums are also easy to carry about and access. They can be helpful to both children and adults and have a multitude of purposes. Talking Photo Albums can help people share information. They foster social closeness, because they provide a shared context. To use them, most people require minimal, if any, training. Practitioners, teachers, caregivers, parents, spouses, and individuals who rely (either temporarily or permanently) on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) techniques and devices may find them especially beneficial.

One practical limitation of their flexibility is simply the imaginative capacity of any single individual. While each of us may be able to come up with several different ideas for their use, many of us, together, can inevitably think up more, and more varied, uses for this newly available tool.

This presentation will share the results of our effort to compile ideas about the utilization of Talking Photo albums. The Talking Photo Album Idea Book provides ideas from some of the brightest minds in the country and proves that the whole is even more than equal to the sum of its parts. The Idea Book shows many different ways people can use Talking Photo Albums (or similar type of digitized speech technologies). We hope challenge participants thinking and lead them to imagine a wider universe of possible uses.

To date, we have twenty-one different concrete ways these albums can be used, by young and old, in and out of school, by people with very different disabilities and very different goals. The ideas come from practitioners and family members who work and live with people who are using AAC techniques every day.

This presentation will serve as a stimulus to the ongoing production and sharing of other useful applications for Talking Photo Albums, rather than be an end-product in and of itself. We will encourage users to share their additional ideas with us, and we in turn will try to share these new ideas with others-through expanded editions of the Idea Book, through web publication of new ideas, through conference presentations, and by whatever other means prove useful. Talking Photo Album may be useful for groups outside the field of AAC, as well as individuals who face severe communication challenges.

The ideas in the Idea Book come from a number of general perspectives. Some focus on ways to support interaction when individuals have severe difficulties using intelligible speech. For example, in My Topics/News Album and Generic Pictures/Specific Tasks, Linda Burkhart and Carolyn Musselwhite describe ways to set up Photo Albums so individuals can share news or set topics. John Costello's Okay, Now Let's Talk about Me! and Mimi Deegan's My Weekend show how to use the Photo Album as a remnant book or a scrap book.

That was the Day that Was by Judith Lunger-Bergh demonstrates how to use Talking Photo Albums to enhance family involvement and meaningful communication between school and home. Harvey Pressman suggests in An Autobiographical Record a way for individuals with ALS and other acquired disabilities to capture their personalities, likes and dislikes. In Me the Person, Not Me the Patient, John Costello describes a related idea for children who are unable to speak during a hospitalization. Linda Burkhart's strategy Sequenced Social Script helps individuals extend and maintain their conversations over several turns. Pat Ourand's Making Choices describes how to support independent interactions using the Photo Album in fast food restaurants.

Another group of ideas shows how to use Talking Photo Albums to support an individual's understanding, so that they can complete tasks and activities more independently over time. Pat Ourand's Stepping Through is an example of using a good task analysis with the Photo Book, to enable individuals to become more independent in accomplishing daily chores/tasks/jobs. Judy Henderson describes a similar idea in Talking Job Sequence. John Duganne and Mary Ann Glicksman's unique contribution, How to Assist with Daily Tasks, demonstrates the use of a Photo Album to instruct personal assistants in daily care activities.

A third category is comprised of strategies that highlight literacy skills development. In Tell a Story, Iris Fishman describes using the Photo Album to enable children to read to peers, parents and friends. Peggy Locke's Talking Book and the Me Book/Me Magazine put forth similar ideas to encourage reading. In Explore a Book, Pati King-DeBaun describes a clever way to integrate Talking Photo Albums into the curriculum. Carolyn Musselwhite describes the use of the Photo Album as a support for writing in Scaffolding Writing. Kirsten Haugen demonstrates how to incorporate the album into a rich literacy learning activity in Our Field Trip Report. Pati King-DeBaun's Activity Book is designed so children have "something to do" in the car, waiting for appointments and so on.

The Idea Book has been a collaboration among a community of people that are interested in spreading the use of Talking Photo Albums and other low-cost digitized speech technologies. Because of the use of digitized speech, Talking Photo Albums are also useful tools for individuals who speak other languages and could benefit from speech output assistive technology devices.

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