Children with autism and other communication disorders have been using assistive and augmentative communication (AAC) technology to communicate for years. Communication devices allow non-verbal and minimally verbal individuals to communicate by pointing to pictures with whatever means they have; with their fingers, but also their mouths and eyes. AAC devices, from low-tech picture card exchange systems and picture boards to the higher-tech speech generating talk boxes have been totally eclipsed by a new technology not specifically designed for children with disabilities; the iPad.
As the iPad has become increasingly popular and accessible, parents and educators are using the devices to run communication apps such as Proloquo2Go. These applications have the same function as former AAC devices, but are significantly easier to use, as the apps can store near-infinite amounts of words, compared with individual, AAC cards which had to be made specifically for the user. The ubiquity of the iPad also makes it much less stigmatizing for an individual to use than bulky and conspicuous talk-boxes.
Some parents have expressed concerns that allowing children to communicate through the iPad will decrease their motivation to learn to speak verbally. A new study from the Peabody College of Education and Human Development and Vanderbilt University shows that this is clearly not the case.
The study, which encouraged children ages 5-8 to use speech-generating devices such as the iPad to “develop speaking skills,” resulted in the participants “developing considerably more spoken words compared to other interventions.” Results of the study indicate that all children learned new words using the technology, and many of the children learned short sentences.
Researcher Ann Kaiser, who spearheaded the study, suggests that speech-generating devices are more effective at teaching speaking skills than other interventions, because the acoustic signal presented to the child is exactly the same each time, compared to a signal which is variable when spoken multiple times by parents and teachers in multiple situations.
“Every time the iPad says a word, it sounds exactly the same,” Kaiser explained to Research News at Vanderbilt, “which is important for children with autism, who generally need things to be as consistent as possible.”
To read the article:
By: Stephanie A. Millman