2004 Conference Proceedings

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Harvey Pressman
Augmentative Communication, Inc.
Email: presstoe@aol.com

Over the past year, many thousands of Talking Photo Albums (TPAs) have been put into service to support people with disabilities all over the world, not just in the United States and Canada, but in the U.K., in Portugal, in New Zealand, in Australia, and many, many points in between. As the numbers of TPAs in use grew almost exponentially from month to month, the variety of uses, and the kinds of people using them, also expanded. This session will review some of the most novel, innovative and unusual new applications of this deceptively simple device.

The Talking Photo Album is now being utilized around the world as an inexpensive, easy-to-use device with a wide variety of potential uses for people who need Assistive Technology (AT). One of its best features is its flexibility. You can record four minutes of speech, 10 seconds at a time, in any language. You can use digital photos, book cutouts, symbols, drawings, regular photos, xeroxes, newspaper clippings, letters, tracings, whatever, on each of its 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. Practitioners, teachers, caregivers, parents, spouses, and individuals who rely (either temporarily or permanently) on AT techniques and devices can all benefit from using them. 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.

One practical limitation of their flexibility is simply the imaginative capacity of any single individual. That is why we came up with the idea for a Talking Photo Idea Book. Initially, we figured that, if we could get some of the brightest minds in AT to come up with just one or two ideas each, then each person who acquired the Talking Photo Album and the Idea Book might have a way to imagine a wider universe of possible uses, as a result of seeing the variety of concrete ways the album can be used, by young and old, in and out of school, by people with very different disabilities and very different goals. The ideas contained in the Idea Book thus come from practitioners and family members who work and live with people who are using AT techniques every day.

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, Burkhardt and Musselwhite describe ways to set up Photo Albums so individuals can share news or set topics. Costello's Okay, Now Let's Talk about Me! and 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, demonstrates how to useTalking Photo Albums to enhance family involvement and meaningful communication between school and home. 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, Costello describes a related idea for children who are unable to speak during a hospitalization. Burkhardt's strategy Sequenced Social Script helps individuals extend and maintain their conversations over several turns. 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. 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. A similar idea is described by Henderson in Talking Job Sequence. Duganne and 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, Fishman describes using the Photo Album to enable children to read to peers, parents and friends. Locke's Talking Book and the Me Book/Me Magazine put forth similar ideas to encourage reading. In Explore a Book, King-DeBaun describes a clever way to integrate Talking Photo Albums into the curriculum. Musselwhite describes the use of the Photo Album as a support for writing in Scaffolding Writing. Haugen demonstrates how to incorporate the album into a rich literacy learning activity in Our Field Trip Report. King-DeBaun's Activity Book is designed so children have "something to do" in the car, waiting for appointments and so on.

We hoped, also, that the Idea Book would 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. At A.C.I., we encouraged users to share their additional ideas with us; and we in turn have been trying to share these new ideas with others. As a result of this on-going dialogue, we believe that the field is now ready to go beyond the boundaries of our own original Idea Book to the production of a new, more comprehensive, more thought-provoking, and more valuable compendium of ideas, touching not just issues involving people with complex communication needs, but extending to fields like autism, cognitive impairment, dementia, the elderly disabled, and traumatic brain injury.

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