AAC: Autism and The iPad
The iPad’s innovative design and platform has resulted in more affordable Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) applications (apps). This provided individuals with autism more options and ways to expand their communication skills. However, every AAC user has different strengths, needs, and skills, and each AAC app has different features. Therefore, it’s important to understand the various features of AAC apps so that you can match the AAC apps with the specific needs of the individual.
Additionally, AAC research tells us that AAC competency takes time. For many, the process to learn to become a competent AAC user requires a lot of practice, instruction, encouragement, and support.
- Visual supports
- Errorless learning
- Family involvement: Multiple Opportunities to Practice
This post will examine these evidence based features, how they relate to AAC, and how they are used in SpeechTree’s AAC and Learning program.
SpeechTree AAC Communication &
Motivation is one of the key components for increasing AAC use among children with autism. It has been found that for certain children with autism, technology can be a motivating factor (Moore & Calvert, 2000).
It has been noted that children with ASD tend to have idiosyncratic patterns of behavior and subsequent areas of interest (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). It is believed that these idiosyncrasies may affect their interest and motivation to use AAC devices. One potential method for enhancing appeal is to incorporate meaningful and motivating activities into the AAC technology (Mirenda & Schulerr 1988; Quill, 1995).
SpeechTree: Autism: Motivation
SpeechTree has incorporated meaningful and motivating activities into its language lessons. SpeechTree has included motivational visual reinforcers to keep individuals engaged and attentive to the lessons. The lessons are short in length to ensure success and also follow a predictable pattern which decreases anxiety and results in learning success.
Autism: Visual Supports
Research indicates that people with cognitive disabilities more accurately match color photographs with referents than they do with black and white photographs (Mirenda & Locke, 1989)
High-tech AAC systems present language through the visual channel using pictures or symbols. Research indicates that many children with ASD have been reported to have relatively strong visual processing skills (Wetherby, Prizant, & Schuler, 2000), and other research suggests that children with ASD have relatively strong visual-spatial skills (Olgetree & Harn, 2001; Quill, 1997).
SpeechTree: Visual Supports
Visual supports are found in SpeechTree’s lessons. The name of the item appears underneath the picture and pops out and is reinforced with auditory cues by speaking when touched. Arrows are also used to provide a visual cue to turn the page within the lessons.
Visual Supports are used in every
Errorless learning is a teaching strategy that helps learners arrive at the correct answer and avoid making mistakes while they learn new information. Errorless learning has been shown to be an effective teaching method for those with Traumatic Brian Injury (TBI)I, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), memory issues, and others. The theory behind errorless learning is that error responses have negative effects, especially for children with autism, given their rigid adherence to rules (Green, 1996; Smith; Iwata, Goh, & Shore, 1995).
SpeechTree Errorless Learning
SpeechTree uses errorless learning in all of its lessons to help achieve success, learn new skills and concepts, and help to create a positive learning experience. Here is an example of SpeechTree errorless learning program.
Six random vocabulary from
the selected lesson are displayed.
Field is reduced to four vocabulary
when incorrect selection is made.
Field is reduced to one when
second incorrect choice is made.
Numerous studies have supported the effectiveness of modeling and aided language stimulation techniques on children with cerebral palsy (Goossens’ 1989), autism (Drager et.al, 2006), Peterson, Bondy, Vincent, & Finnegan, 1995) and intellectual disabilities (Harris & Reichle, 2004; Romksi & Sevcik, 1996; & Secvik, Romski, Watkins, & Deffebach, 1995).
Even though the importance of modeling is a well-established and documented technique when used as a teaching tool, it’s been found that practitioners and parents model infrequently (Kent-Walsh & McNaughton, 2005; Smith & Grove, 2003).
Modeling is used in every SpeechTree lesson. It is used as a tool in the teaching lesson and as an embedded reinforcer in the receptive and expressive lessons.
Modeling is used in every SpeechTree
lesson. It is used as a tool in the teaching lesson and as an embedded reinforcer in receptive and expressive lessons.
Autism: Easy to Learn
Current evidence suggests that existing AAC technologies prove to be difficult for typically developing children to learn because of how the technologies are designed (e.g. system layout, vocabulary organization) (Drager et al., 2003). This should be taken into consideration in teaching children with ASD to use AAC devices.
McEwen found a 20% improvement in students’ ability to communicate using symbols on the iPad. It has also been found that students communicate faster using the iPad because they can touch the icons, instead of trying to find the picture card representing what they want to say (Flores, 2010).
SpeechTree: Easy to Learn/Use
SpeechTree provides a systematic process to learning language and AAC use. This allows teachers, parents, and therapists to easily introduce, track and monitor progress. Additionally, the learning program and AAC system incorporate colorful symbols, icons, and message window.
Initial responses from our BETA testing have found that individuals quickly learned to navigate the learning program and readily translate what was learned from the learning section into competent AAC communication just by using SpeechTree’s AAC section.
Lessons follow a systematic process that build on each other: (1) Teaching (2) Receptive (3) Expressive.
Once the lesson is complete, the goal is to transfer what was learned in the lessons into competent AAC use.
This is done in the AAC system.
Autism: Family Involvement:
Research has shown that familiar caregivers play a critical role in language learning for children with ASD (Kaiser, Hancock, & Niefield, 2000). Parents and caregivers have a vested interest in the development and well being of their child, and are frequently motivated to follow through with interventions.
Jane Korsten, AAC Specialist, said the following about AAC :
“The average 18 month old child has been exposed to 4,280 hours of oral language, at an exposure rate of 8 hours a day from birth. A child who uses a communication system and receives speech and language therapy 2 times a week for 20-30 minutes each session will reach this same amount of language exposure in 84 years.
SpeechTree: Family Involvement: Frequent Opportunities To Practice Communication
Communication happens all day long and not just in the classroom or therapy setting. Therefore, it’s critical to provide more communication opportunities as well as multiple opportunities to practice and learn language in order to speed up the learning curve. SpeechTree lessons allow family members to become an active participant in the learning process and to easily monitor progress and areas that require further growth.
Data allows parents and educators to easily monitor
progress and areas that require further growth.