R2: Investigating AAC technologies to support the transition from graphic symbols to literacy

Figure R2-1 Pict and text v2 jpgTeam Leaders: J. Light, D. McNaughton, T. Jakobs (InvoTek), Hershberger (Saltillo)

Ben is 15 years old and has severe autism. He has no functional speech and relies on a speech generating device (SGD) with picture symbols to express his needs and wants; he is very frustrated when he can’t communicate effectively, and he has many challenging behaviors. He is currently in a transition program preparing for employment. His transition team has had trouble identifying potential employment options because of his limited literacy skills. He was introduced to literacy instruction recently and is making progress. However, his current SGD does not support his transition to literacy.

Challenge: Literacy skills are essential to positive outcomes in education, employment, participation and community living. Literacy skills also support the development of generative language and communicative competence for individuals with CCN, and are essential for access to the tools of 21st century communication (e.g., Internet, social media). Unfortunately, current research demonstrates that up to 90% of individuals with CCN enter adulthood without functional literacy skills.  At present, there are no AAC apps that effectively support the transition from the use of graphic AAC symbols  to the use of orthographic text for communication.

Goals: This project will investigate the effects of AAC apps that dynamically display text upon selection of graphic symbols in order to support pre-literate individuals with CCN in the transition from using graphic AAC symbols to using literacy skills to communicate in daily activities at home, at school, at work and in the community. This improvement in AAC technology design is not intended to replace formal literacy instruction, but rather to complement instruction and infuse literacy into daily communication.

It is expected that dynamically displaying text in graphics- based AAC software will result in increases in the literacy skills of individuals with CCN who were previously nonliterate, thereby providing a powerful means to complement formal literacy instruction and support increased communication and participation. The data from this study will be used to guide tech transfer of this innovation to the market place.


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