2004 Conference Proceedings

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WRITING WITH SYMBOLS MEETS MINSPEAK: A NEW EDUCATIONAL TOOL FOR MINSPEAK USERS

Presenter

Bruce K. Helmbold
MA, CCC-SLP, R.SLP
I CAN Centre
Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital
10230 - 111 Ave.
Edmonton, AB T5G 0B7, Canada
Phone: 780-471-2262 ext. 2427
Fax: 780-491-6072
Email: bhelmbol@cha.ab.ca

PRC devices translate Minspeak icons into English voice output messages and text, but until now, they have lacked the capacity to turn English into Minspeak. Although some devices have an Icon Tutor feature that allows a user to look up the Minspeak equivalent of a particular English word or phrase, this feature is for reference only, and cannot be produced as output.

As well, until now, no convenient method existed for creating printable materials to teach Minspeak icon sequences. Currently, an individual who wishes to create materials to teach Minspeak must use a laborious method of combining icon sequences, icon by icon, with Boardmaker or some other graphic arts program, and must then re-label the sequences to reflect their English text equivalents. This method requires not only a thorough knowledge of Minspeak, but also demands familiarity with the individual labels for each and every Minspeak icon graphic, labels which do not necessarily correspond to the English text represented by the Minspeak icon sequences. For this reason--the difficulty in developing training tools--Minspeak may be an underutilized and overlooked option for inverventionists working with clients who require AAC.

Furthermore, given the text/voice output of PRC devices, users who are learning to compose written sentences with Minspeak have no ability to view or review the icon sequences that comprise their communication--in other words, many of them are unable to read their own writing. Since developing writers need to be able to review and edit their writing, this deficiency produces a further barrier to users' development of communicative facility. Thus, emerging writers of Minspeak are at a disadvantage, since they do not have access to a viewable and printable iconic record of their written messages.

This presentation highlights a newly developed tool that solves these problems. This consists of a series of Unity Enhanced wordlists (UE WWS2000) which merge Writing With Symbols software with PRC Picture Set bitmap icons. UE WWS2000 wordlists allow for two forms of input, both of which produce identical output. When the wordlist is installed on a computer, in conjuction with Writing With Symbols, individuals who type in English text can produce printable output that contains icon sequences which are automatically labeled with the English word or words that the sequence represents. Identical results can be obtained by a Minspeak user who, by selecting MInspeak icon sequences, sends text to the computer via a Vanguard or Vantage communication device.

These wordlists are comprehensive, covering the full vocabulary of words and phrases supplied with the Unity Enhanced Minspeak application program for the Vanguard and Vantage communication devices. All three basic user areas--Unity Enhanced 1-hit , Unity Enhanced 2-Hit, and Unity Enhanced Full--are fully indexed and included in the wordlists.

Many service provides will already have two of the three components necessary for creating Unity Enhanced materials and displays, since Writing With Symbols 2000 software and the PRC Picture Set CD-Rom are commercially available. These new wordlists comprise the third component necessary for a fully functional system.

This presentation will highlight the varoius applications of the UE WWS2000 wordlist. Examples of printed Minspeak materials will be shown, as well as videos of classrooms engineered with Unity Enhanced Minspeak icons. Additionally, a demonstration will be given of using a PRC device in conjunction with UE WWS2000 wordlists for real-time visual feedback for writing. Various applications will be discussed, such as creating word wall words with Unity Enhanced sequences, creating and printing grids of icon sequences, and adapting books with Unity Enhanced.

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