Thursday, October 23, 2008

All for Automaticity

One of the things that is so important for our students is when using some kind of AAC system is automaticity. They need to know, whether they use two objects for choices, a multi-symbol aug comm board or a dynamic display device, where what they want to say is located. This is the same no matter what access system is used as well, eye gaze, pointing, scanning, etc. It is difficult for speaking people when they occasionally can't think of a word, so imagine how frustrating it must be for alternative communicators when they can't find a word or symbol, even more so when they know their communication partner has deliberately moved things around. Sometimes our students will always pick what is on the left, or the top, or pick without looking, but there are ways for us, as educators, to teach these skills without moving "their words" around. We can use positioning of a board to cut down on always choosing to the left or top by, for example, holding an eye gaze board with a choice of two symbols to the left of mid-line can make it so a leftwards tending gaze is more centered. As for a student who choosing with out looking? First we need to know if this is really a problem. I choose the keys on my keyboard without looking and the rate at which I communicate via typing would be much slower if I started looking or if someone changed around the keys on me. So before we insist a student look before they choose we need to be sure the students needs to look before they choose. If they do indeed need to look, or if they need to look some of the time, we need to use the prompt hierarchy to teach looking... with the end goal being not looking per say, but knowing where the core or constant words/symbols are located. We also need to think ahead as we work towards expanding our students communication abilities.

For example there are three communication boards shown, all belong to the same student, one is on the student's wheelchair tray (that was the first one) another on the student's desk and the last one on a wooden board designed to be moved from room to room in the student's home. If you look closely you can see that with each board there are more symbols, but the lay out and use of the modified Fitzgerald key are the same. The core vocabulary remains the same on the boards and is definitely in the same location. The student's parents even present the home board in the same vertical position as the lap tray and desk at school. My goal is for this student to become more competent with this system and to continue expanding this system as her skills. Eventually the SLP and I hope, believe, that someday she will be ready for dynamic display. When she is I also expect her the basic lay out of her main board may be similar to these.

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