2006 Conference General Sessions




Rick Hohn
DynaVox Technologies
Vista CA 92081—8721
Day Phone: 760—598—8336
Email: rick.hohn@adelphia.net

Presenter #2
Jennifer Johnson
DynaVox Technologies
4418 Kansas St.
San Diego CA 92116
Day Phone: 619—280—6422
Email: jallen@codermotor.com

Developing good literacy skills has always been a challenge for parents, teachers and speech-language pathologists when teaching children and adults with severe communication disorders. The statistics are startling.

The data from Kirsch, I., Jungleblut, A., Jenkins, L., and Kolstad, A. (1993) indicate that 44% to 47% of adults with physical impairments and 53% to 55% of adults with significant speech difficulties perform at the lowest levels of literacy proficiency. Without access to literacy skills, an individual is significantly limited in the educational, Vocational, and social opportunities found in almost all activities of daily living (Light & Smith, 1993). Many educators will agree that the ability to read, write, and spell is the most important life skill a student will learn while in school. However, the development of literacy skills among individuals with severe disabilities has become a topic of much discussion. Research suggests that individuals with severe disabilities often demonstrate decreased literacy skills (Dahlgren Sandberg & Hjelmquist, 1996; Light & smith, 1993). These individuals may demonstrate a variety of physical, fine motor, language, cognitive or visual impairments that can be detrimental to their ability to access literacy activities. Therefore, it is necessary to consider these factors when designing implementation strategies to provide alternate access to literacy activities (Beukelman & Mirenda, 1998).

Besides these statistics, participants will hear the presenters struggle to read and write as children and their passionate views of why every individual, regardless of disabilities, must acquire literacy skills to varying degrees. Solutions for these basic learning necessities will be discussed, so that every aspect of life can be fully enjoyed.

Why literacy is such an issue for those who have never spoken
Participants will gain firsthand knowledge of why reading and writing is so difficult for individuals who have never spoken. For instance, the inability to sound phonemes verbally establishes a missing connection in the brain to do so. Similarly, those who have never spoken develop a language delay and often miss words while constructing a sentence on an AAC device.

ASHA’s Literacy Gateway says, “A majority of all poor readers have an early history of spoken-language deficits. A recent study reported that 73% of 2nd grade poor readers had phonemic awareness or spoken language problems in kindergarten.”’ “Without direct instructional support, phonemic awareness eludes roughly 25% of middle class first graders, and substantially more of those who come from less literacy-rich backgrounds.” (Adams, 1990)
“Phonemic awareness tasks require “sub-vocal analysis” or the ability to silently sound out words.” (Yopp, 1988)

Fortunately, nowadays there are tools to foster literacy skills and the issues involved for individuals who have never spoken verbally.

Literacy skills can be improved by the Literacy Pages and the DynaBooks
In preprogrammed pages on a Series Four Product, the presenters will show the progression that can be implemented in the Literacy Pages. There are 12 levels of learning. Included are cause and effect, phonemes, construction of words and the formation of novel statements.

DynaBooks is another preprogrammed page set, however, the AAC user has the flexibility to direct how a story flows. Additionally, the Message Window is shaped like writing paper to give the concept of text being written from left to riqht and progressing downward. The individual can also follow words by turning “Highlight as You speak” on in the Message window Features Menu.

Other Message window Features to provide literacy skills
Besides the Highlight as You speak option, there are other tools in the Message window Features to promote literacy skills. Two such items are “speak when Inserting words” and “speak on Punctuation”. Both of these features give auditory feedback for individuals with language delays.

Participants will learn of one presenter using auditory feedback to overcome this developmental disability and how he now teaches others to do the same.

The advantages and disadvantages of using symbols
A discussion of advantages and disadvantages in using symbols to promote literacy skills will occur from the presenters’ perspective as well as clinical studies.

YAACK - AAC devices and systems say, “The selection of a symbol system is important and individualistic. It cannot be decided by age, cognitive ability or developmental level of the child, althou9h these do influence the decision. A predominant physical issue that impacts the choice of a symbol system is whether the child has a sensory impairment, which may affect his or her ability to perceive and process certain types of symbols. Children with visual impairments may require tactile or auditory symbols alone or in conjunction with enhanced visual symbols.”

Certainly, in the early development of children, symbols are good identifying words. There is a danger, however, in AAC users becoming dependant upon symbols. Of course, cognitive issues come into consideration using Alternate output and computer access to promote literacy skills
Learning should be fun. Usinq a communication device to send text to a computer opens a completely new world for AAC users.

Highlighted strategies will include sending text by Alternate Output to a computer so that AAC users can share the things on their hearts. The value of this process extends beyond the obvious technology; it allows AAC users to be on the giving end and increases their self-worth. Device users can tell a joke to a friend, a story to share in class, or relevant information that would be beneficial to share with an employer. Motivation to improve literacy skills sharpens.

Thus, although developing good literacy skills is a challenge for people with severe communication disorders, becoming literate is obtainable so the world around them can be fully enjoyed.

Kirsch, I., Jungleblut, A., Jenkins, L., and Kolstad, A. (1993). Adult literacy in
America: A first look at the results of the National Adult Literacy Survey. Washington, D.C.: us Government Printing office.

Dahlgren Sandberg, A. & Hjelmquist, E. (1996). Phonological Awareness and Literacy
Abilities in Nonspeaking Preschool children with Cerebral Palsy. Augmentative and
Alternative communication, 3, 138-154.

Light, J. & Smith, A. (1993). Home Literacy Experiences of Preschoolers who Use AAC Systems and of Their Nondisabled Peers. Augmentative and Alternative communication, 1, 10-25.

Beukelman, K. & Mirenda P. (1998). Augmentative and Alternative communication:
Management of severe communication Disorders in children and Adults. Baltimore, MD:
Paul H. Brookes Publishing co.

Yopp, H. (1992). Developing Phonemic Awareness in Young children. Reading Teacher, 45 (9), 696-703.

ASHA’s Literacy Gateway, www.asha.org/about/publications/literacy

Adams, Marilyn Jager (1990). Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print. Cambridge, MA: Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, Inc. [ED 317 950]

Yopp, H.K. (1988). The validity and reliability of phonemic awareness tests. Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 159—177.


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