However many of those involved with the decision when choosing AAC hardware and software do not have any idea what research has been done on VSDs and whether or not they would be beneficial to the individual who will be using the AAC device. Then the device arrives and suddenly there is this huge demand to learn how to use VSDs or reprogram to avoid the VSDs.
The research on VSDs seems to be primarily done on older (elderly) AAC users who have aphasia and secondarily done on those with autism spectrum disorders. There is some theroretical writing about VSDs and young children, but not much research. There is little research on VSDs in other populations (cerebral palsy, brain injury, Down Syndrome, Fragile X, etc.), nor is there any research on VSDs when the access method is not some kind of direct selection (i.e. for those who use auto- or step-scanning). Where there is research, i.e. this study for small children, the sample size is small (n=5) or the research focuses on personally relevant VSDs (photos of a person's actual surroundings as opposed to abstract drawings). This leaves decision makers in a void of information and presents a challenge when working with individuals outside of the areas that have been researched (everyone except young children, those with ASD and those with aphasia).
There is an assumption that visual scene displays reduce cognitive load, but this likely varies by individual (i.e. some individuals may find VSDs easier, but others may find traditional grids with no questions as to what is selectable vs. what isn't easier. If you are a PC user think about whether or not you like to view folders in thumbnail, icon, list or another format. This varies from person to person and task to task. The need for VSD may also change based on the persons style of learning - highly visual people, like most people with ASD may prefer the VSDs while others may prefer traditional grids). There is also an assumption that visual scenes will act as a visual cue to prompt conversation, but while this is possible it is also possible that a VSD can act as a distractor and lead away from the point that needed to be made (think about how often we write in IEPs to decrease visual distraction as an accomodation).
In short we don't know what visual scenes mean to our students. We are left where we are often left when teaching those with low incidence multiple or severe disabilities: direct trials and data collection is the only way to determine what will work and what won't. That means in the current trend of VSDs it is even more important than previously to rent an AAC devices for an extended period of time and run trials of the different types of software (with VSDs like InterACCt software and without VSDs like Gateway software) before you order. Additionally it is imperative that trials be done on the most current software available because if the software has changed the ability to access it may also change.
Bibliography of VSD research and presentations:
- Beukelman, D., Deitz, A., Hux, K., McKelvey, M., & Weissling, K. (2005). Performance in chronic aphasia using visual scenes interface with AAC. The ASHA Leader, 139.
- Beukelman, D., Dietz, D., Hux, K., McKelvey, M. Weissling, K. (2005). Visual scenes: An AAC prototype for people with aphasia. The ASHA Leader, 139.
- Dietz, K, McKelvey, M, & Beukelman, D (2006). Visual scene displays (VSD): New AAC interfaces for persons with aphasia. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 15, 13-17.
- McKelvey, M., Dietz, A., Hux, K., Weissling, K, & Beukelman, D. (2007). Performance of a person with chronic aphasia using personal and contextual pictures in a visual scene display prototype. Journal of Medical Speech Language Pathology, 15, 305-317.
- Shane, H. (2006). Using Visual Displays to Improve Communication and Communication Instruction in Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication. 15:1, 7-13.
- Ongoing Research
- CallTalk (runs on BM/SDP, The Grid) - traditional grids
- Chailey Communication System (runs on Mind Express) - traditional grids
- Communicate 4 (BM/SDP, it originally ran on DV4s) - traditional grids
- Dynavox InterAACt - default visual scenes, elimiating is difficult
- Dynavox Gateway - traditional grids
- Express Talk (runs on Mind Express) - traditional grids
- Ingfield Express (runs on Mind Express) - traditional grids
- PRC Lite Devices - visual context scenes (not sure if default or optional)
- PRC Devices - Unity/Minspeak on a traditional grid, some have "learning scenes" option
- Point to Pictures (JR Cooper devices) - traditional grid
- Symbol Chat (runs on The Grid) - traditional grids
- Talking Screen - traditional grids
- TALK Boards (runs on BM/SDP) -traditional grids, text based, not for emergent communicators
- Velocity (runs on DV, SM/SDP) -traditional grids
- WordPower (runs on DV, PRC, BM/SDP, The Grid) - traditional grids, not for emergent communicators