Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Time Variables in Programming Augmentative Communication Devices/Software

There has been an interesting discussion going on today on the Boardmaker Yahoo Group relating to programming Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro to change the message a button "says" based on different variables including time. It turns out (thanks to "Maryanne's Dad for doing the leg work) that this is very possible.

In this case a button requesting a cheese and crackers snack was programmed to say, "I want cheese and crackers" during the afternoon and evening and something like, "Sorry, no cheese and crackers right now", in the morning.

Programming variables can be helpful for behavioral reasons (self-modulation and cueing), decreasing cognitive load (limiting choices), and access reasons (no need to scan or have on the screen buttons that are not relevant).

Here are some ideas I have for using time variables in programming AAC devices:
  • using the example from above to say what is available or not available for anything to toy choices, food and staff members based on time of day or day of the week
  • having a greeting button automatically say "good morning" vs. "good afternoon" or "sleep tight"
  • "what's now" and "what's next" buttons that change according to the time and schedule
  • a seasonal or holiday button that automatically goes to the correct holiday for the day (in October to a Halloween page, from mid June to July 5th to an Independence Day page)
  • using a seconds or minutes later variable for cueing, for example a student says, "I need the bathroom" and a set time later the device says, "I should be on my way to the bathroom" (you could even use a temporary voice or temporary volume setting to make it whisper the cue)
  • lunch menus that change based on the day to match the schools pre-set menu
  • "here is what I am doing after school" and "this is what I did last night" that change based on the day (i.e. Tuesday is says, "I have Challenger League Baseball tonight!" and Wednesday morning it says, "Ask me about my Challenger League Baseball game last night!")
  • A Sunday school page that pops up on Sunday only
  • a birthday page that automatically lists only the birthdays in the current month
  • ages that automatically update
  • weather pages that only offer snow as a choice during winter months and heat wave during summer months
  • casual conversation pages that change based on the time of day (for example afterschool boards say, "What up?" and "Peace out!" while school time boards us more formal expression, "How are you doing?" and "See you later."
  • and so much more!
Here are the possible variables available on Boardmaker SDP:
  • svTime: Time ("3:38")
  • svDate: Date ("May 19, 2006")
  • svYear: Year ("2006")
  • svMonth: Name of the current month ("May")
  • svMonth#: Number of the current month ("5")
  • svDayOfMonth: Date within current month ("19")
  • svDay: Name of the current day ("Friday")
  • svDay#: Number of day (Sunday being 1) ("6")
  • svHour or svHour12: Time in hours ("3")
  • svHour24: Military time in hours ("15")
  • svMinute: Minutes after the hour ("38")
  • svSeconds: Seconds after the minute ("21")
On the Dynavox V Series you can find information on If-Then-Else Variables on page five of the advanced programming guide (click to download it in PDF). The advanced programming guide is a little complicated and as I don't own my own Dynavox V I haven't tried any of it out. It would be great if Dynavox hosted a series of video-podcasts that showed you how to program variables and do other advanced programming.

Expert programmers and vendors please post links to directions on programming variables on your devices in the comments!

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