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Language Competence: Don't Settle for a Piece of the Pie


Presentation for the More Than Gadgets Conference, Perth 2011

Presentation for the More Than Gadgets Conference, Perth 2011

Published in Health & Medicine , Technology
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  • 1. Language Competence
    Don’t Settle for a Piece of the Pie
  • 2. Jane Farrall
    Speech Pathologist
    AAC Support Services Manager
  • 3. Introduction to Language Competence
    Language (linguistic) Competence
    Receptive and expressive language
    Learning and using
    Sentence structure
    Pre-programmed messages
  • 4. Introduction to Language Competence
    Examples of Linguistic Competence (SET-BC, 2008)
    Communicate preferences and interests using patterned phrases
    I want...
    I like...
    I am...
    Communicate requests for school or personal objects
    I need my walker.
    I need a drink.
    Ask and answer basic questions (scripted, prestored)
    My name is Sarah. What is your name?
    I went to the movies. What did you do on the weekend?)
    What’s that?
  • 5. Introduction to Language Competence
    Communicate requests and comments using simple generative sentences
    “I + want+ book”
    “Dad + like(s) + pizza”
    Construct simple grammatical sentences using present and past tense (then future tense, then complex and compound sentences)
    Use descriptive language
    (SET-BC, 2008)
  • 6. Introduction to Language Competence
    Participate in familiar, real-life situations using scripted patterns and/or generative language
    Ordering food in a restaurant
    Participating in circle routine in school
    Playing a card game
    Complete written and oral components of grade level assignments independently
    Write an essay
    Give a presentation
    Participate in small group
    Understand and discuss linguistic structures and forms and how this relates to their communication system
    Verbs and verb tenses may be entered separately
    (SET-BC, 2008)
  • 7. Introduction to Language Competence
    Part of a larger concept called communicative competence
    “The ability to communicate functionally in natural environments to meet daily communication needs” (Light, 1989)
    A baseline level of success in a communicative opportunity based on the demands of that situation
    Composed of 4 parts—linguistic, operational, social, and strategic
  • 8. Introduction to Language Competence
    Linguistic Competence
    Receptive and expressive language
    Learning and using
    Sentence structure
    Pre-programmed messages
  • 9. Introduction to Language Competence
    Operational Competence
    Skills related to the maintenance and operation of the AAC system
    Accessing the system (e.g.., touch, scanning, etc)
    Positioning the system
    Adjusting the volume
    Charging the device
    Programming the device
    Troubleshooting common technical problems, etc.
  • 10. Introduction to Language Competence
    Social Competence
    Skills needed to communicate effectively and in socially appropriate ways to:
    Interact with others
    Gain attention
    Introduce a topic
    Change a topic
    Make comments
    Ask questions
    Communicate about a variety of topics
    Use a variety of communicative functions
  • 11. Introduction to Language Competence
    Strategic Competence
    Strategies to overcome or minimize the functional limitations of AAC
    Slower rate
    “Computerized” speech
    Strategies to prevent or repair communication breakdowns
    AAC user doesn’t understand
    Communication partner doesn’t understand
  • 12. Introduction to Language Competence
    Communicative competence is NOT
    An ending point
    An indication of “perfect” communication skills
  • 13. Introduction to Language Competence
    Part of language competence is being able to communicate for different reasons
    Preferences and interests
    Requests for school or personal objects
    Ask and answer basic questions
  • 14. Introduction to Language Competence
    Communicative functions (Light, 1988)
    Social closeness
    “Can I tell you a story?”
    “Let’s get together for coffee”
    “Kiss please”
    Social etiquette
    “I really appreciate all of your help”
  • 15. Introduction to Language Competence
    Communicative functions (Light, 1988; con’t)
    Information transfer
    “My children went to the beach this summer”
    “Two plus two equals 4”
    “Big truck”
    Wants and needs
    “I need my glasses”
    “I would like to wear the red dress with the pink tights”
    “More juice”
  • 16. Introduction to Language Competence
    Communicative functions—additional
    Internal Dialogue
    “Remember the library book”
    “First I have to listen to the story, then I can swing.”
  • 17. Introduction to Language Competence
    Needs and Wants
    Social Etiquette
  • 18. Introduction to Language Competence
    So, if language competence refers to…
    Receptive and expressive language
    Communicate functionally in the natural environment
    Variety of functions
    How do we get there?
  • 19. Elements of Language—Part One
    Lieven, E., Behrens, H., Speares, J., Tomasello, M. (2003). Early syntactic creativity: A usage based approach. Journal of Child Language, 30, 333-370.
    Those of us who speak construct our utterances by combining rote-learning forms/memorized chunks/strings of words and phrases with variable slots into which we insert appropriate categories of words/phrases.
    We need consider how to provide AAC users access to these language forms with variable slots across the age ranges in addition to the ability to construct language word-by-word or letter-by-letter.
  • 20. Elements of Language—Part One
    Clendon, S. (2006). The language of beginning writers: Implications for children with complex communication needs. Unpublished dissertation. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.
    Rote language forms and memorized “chunks” may comprise as much as 70% of the language produced by verbal communicators
    Formulaic sequences include:
    idioms (e.g.., that’s the way the cookie crumbles)
    sentence frames and builders with open slots (e.g., Could you pass the ____?)
    standard situational utterances (e.g.., “Can I help you?” or “What are you getting?”)
  • 21. Language Use
    Elements of Language—Part One
    What does this mean?
    We as verbal communicators use language “chunks” to communicate
    In routine situations
    Routine messages in ANY situation
    AAC users should have access to the same language “chunks”!
  • 22. Elements of Language—Part One
    Language use vocabulary includes
    Elements that encourage successful day-to-day interaction. Makes use of preprogrammed words, phrases, and sentences for a variety of different contexts. Three types of messages:
    My phrases
    Common constructions
  • 23. Elements of Language—Part One
    Short, quick messages that allow for timely interaction
    A part of many different conversations
    Messages that serve multiple functions
    Express opinion
    Provide direction
    Social interaction
    Social etiquette
    Interaction management
  • 24. Elements of Language—Part One
    My Phrases
    Complete thoughts that have a specific purpose and may be used in multiple different conversations
    Various categories of formulaic sequences (Wray, 1998)
    Standard situational utterances
    (e.g.., Can I help you?)
  • 25. Elements of Language—Part One
    Common Constructions
    Messages that are typically or frequently said by individuals in a certain context
    Not necessarily appropriate in other contexts
    Can be both phrases and sentences
    Can have variable elements
  • 26. Elements of Language—Part Two
    Bedrosian, J., Hoag, L., & McCoy, K. (2003). Relevance and speed of message delivery trade-offs in augmentative and alternative communication. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 800 – 817.
    Subjects in this study (sales clerks) preferred a precise and 100% relevant message, even if it took longer (1.5 min) to produce
    “Message relevance had the most positive impact on attitudes toward the AAC users and their communication”
  • 27. Elements of Language—Part Two
    Clendon, S. (2006). The language of beginning writers: Implications for children with complex communication needs. Unpublished dissertation. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.
    Creative language systems allow the freedom to say what is unexpected
    They also prevent speech from sounding too repetitive and clichéd
  • 28. Elements of Language—Part Two
    What does this mean?
    We as verbal communicators sometimes access single words and put them together to meet our needs
    Communicating in new contexts (not routine)
    Being highly accurate (precise or detailed)
    AAC users should have access to the same individual words (or spelling)!
  • 29. Elements of Language—Part Two
    Language structure vocabulary includes
    Elements that facilitate the development and use of higher level language and literacy skills. These elements allow access to grammatical components and the creation of novel messages. Three components of language structure are:
    Word lists
    Core word strategies
  • 30. Elements of Language—Part Two
    Word Lists
    Single words that fit into a category (food, drink, action)
    Can be used alone, but typically used with other messages for description or clarification
    Can be used in conjunction with core words
  • 31. Elements of Language—Part Two
    Promote participation in literacy activities
    Allow spelling of any words (within abilities)
    Utilize word and phrase prediction
  • 32. Elements of Language—Part Two
    Core Word Strategies
    Single words to combine to create phrases and sentences
    Tools to learn/use grammatical skills
    Do not require literacy skills to use
  • 33. Balance of Language Elements
  • 34. Balance of Language Elements
    Language Structure
    Language Use
    • Quickfires
    • 37. My phrases
    • 38. Common constructions
  • 39. Balance of Language Elements
    Rick Hoyt
    With father, Dick Hoyt
    Marathon runner
    AAC user
    Has Cerebral Palsy
  • 40. “Letters appear on a small screen at Rick's eye level. He twitches his head to move the cursor through the letters, double-twitching when he wants to select one. Each twitch requires a concentrated effort. As he works, his arm waves spasmodically, occasionally getting caught in the computer wires. He is asked, "Do you ever have a bad race?" Rick considers for several moments, then sets to work. He scans down the letters, each twitch of his head accompanied by a small electronic beep, like a bird chirping. Y, he types. Then, three minutes later, E, and, after a similar interval, S. The next question comes, but Rick isn't finished with the first one. W...three minutes...H...three minutes...E...three minutes, and so on for a half hour. Rick communicates no sense of frustration or impatience. "Yes, when the weather is too cold..." finally appears on the screen. The reply is read aloud, but Rick still isn't finished. The twitches and chirps continue. And then the full reply sounds through the voice synthesizer. "Yes," the disembodied electronic voice says after several more long minutes, "when the weather is too cold and the women are too covered up." Rick laughs, his face twisting into a grin, his shoulders shaking. Forty-five minutes after the first question, the next one comes.
  • 41. Balance of Language Elements
    Justin Birch
    Active in his community
    Presents at national conferences
    AAC user
    Had a brain aneurysm
  • 42. Balance of Language Elements
  • 43. Balance of Language Elements
  • 44. Balance of Language Elements
    Todman, J., Alm, N., Higginbotham, J. & File, P. (2008). Whole utterance approaches in AAC. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 24:3, 235 — 254
    A word construction strategy can compliment pre-stored messages in less anticipated situations or when specificity is critical
    Need to move between pre-programmed utterances and the ability to construct specific novel messages when needed
    Caution: remember that devices should be designed to promote social interaction rather than just generate speech  
  • 45. Balance of Language Elements
    Wray (1998): We need to use formulaic language to support efficient conversations and “save” our creative language for when we must be precise
    Blockberger & Sutton (2003): Providing sentences, phrases, and single words is the best approach given “what we know now”
  • 46. Balance of Language Elements
    Emergent Communicators
  • 47. Balance of Language Elements
    Context Dependent Communicators
  • 48. Balance of Language Elements
    Independent Communicators
  • 49. Teaching Language Elements
    Introduction to language competence
    Why do we communicate?
    How do we communicate?
    All communicators
    Individuals with complex communication needs
    Balance of language elements
    Teaching language elements
    Teaching strategies
  • 50. Teaching Language Elements
    Teaching strategies
    Positive communication environment
    Partner augmented input
  • 51. Teaching Language Elements
    Positive Communication Environment
    Expectations and communication partner behavior make a huge difference!
    Positive environments foster communication in many different ways.
  • 52. Teaching Language Elements
    Creating a Positive Communication Environment
  • 53. Teaching Language Elements
    Aided Language Stimulation (ALS)
    Pointing to pictures while you are talking
    With no expectation for the AAC user to point to pictures
  • 54. Teaching Language Elements
    Benefits of ALS (references on resource page)
    Natural receptive language training
    Variety of communicative functions such as questions, comments, greetings, requests, etc.
    Hear a wide variety of available vocabulary
    An immersion approach
    How to communicate (what to say)
    When to communicate
    Why to communicate
    Demonstrates that AAC is acceptable
    Can lead to AAC users using their device!
  • 55. Teaching Language Elements
    “The average 18 month old child has been exposed to 4,380 hours of oral language at a rate of 8 hours/day from birth.
    A child who has a communication system and receives speech/language therapy two times per week for 20-30 minutes sessions will reach this same amount of language exposure in 84 years.”
    (Jane Korsten, recorded at:
  • 56. Teaching Language Elements
    Sabotage requires a communicative response
    Sabotage changes the way an activity typically happens
  • 57. Teaching Language Elements
    Sabotage Worksheet
  • 58. 54
  • 59. Teaching Vocabulary in InterAACT Learning Path
  • 60. Teaching Language Elements
    Introduction to language elements
    Lesson plans
  • 61. Teaching Language Elements
    Introduction to Language Elements
  • 62. Teaching Language Elements
    Lesson Plans
    Introduction Video
    Role Play
    Locating Quickfires
    Choral Practice
    Errorless Practice
    Twenty Questions
    Specific Quickfires (Bingo)
    Combining Quickfires
    Specific Functions (Sorting)
    Role Play
    Real Life
  • 63. Wrap-Up
    Language Competence
    “The ability to communicate functionally in natural environments to meet daily communication needs” (Light, 1989)
    “This” “is” “my” “brother”
    (Core Words)
    “His name is Sebastian.” (Common Constructions)
    Information Transfer
    “Brother” “Easter” “Eggs” (Word Lists)
    “S” “E” “B” “A” “S” “T” “I” “A” “N” (Keyboard)
    “Look” “Mine” “More” “There” (Quickfires)
    “I love to do this.” (My Phrases)
  • 64. Wrap-Up
    Wants and Needs
    “I want a glass of wine.” (Common Constructions)
    “Let’s” “go” “to” “the” “pool”
    (Core Words)
    “C” “O” “C” “T” “A” “I” “L” (Keyboard)
    “You” “Me” “Pool” “Drink” (Word Lists)
    “You know” “OK”
    “I’m thirsty.” (My Phrases)
  • 65. Wrap-Up
    “AAC treatment philosophy stresses the functional value of communication and the use of any strategies and technologies to achieve successful communication.” (Ansel & Wienrich, 2002)