Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Early Should Children Jump into High-end AAC Devices?

Pennsylania State University is conducting a Research Project on Improving AAC Technologies for Young Children with Significant Communication Disorders.
The purpose is to respond to the urgent need for improved AAC technologies and instructional methodologies that meet the needs of toddlers and young children with significant communication disorders.
Principal investigator, Janice Light Ph.D. and c0-investigator, Kathy Drager PH.D. have been sharing their findings on AAC-RERC. In reading through the most recent findings, it was found that 4 an 5 year-olds did better at developing vocabulary and concrete language when using a dynamic display device vs. an iconic encoding method. (Read the highlights of the on-going study here).
This raises some questions in my mind that we need to ask ourselves: At what age should we start a child on AAC? What prerequisite skills should be in place-or-do they need to be there at all before a device is introduced? How do we shift our thinking to get AAC in the hands of early learners with communication disorders as early as possible?
We live in an educational landscape where price tags are scary to administrators. If we can overcome the cost barrier by establishing concrete funding options that take that load off districts, then we have a foundational platform to discuss providing AAC at an early age so we develop solid language users out of our communication-impaired student population.
I am working on establishing this platform in our districts. I want to be careful that I am not promoting one company in the device that is selected, but give several vendors opportunities to trial devices. The important thing is to have the conversation move from taboo to welcome when it comes to AAC use in our early learning and elementary school populations.
I would urge you to look over the report and have conversations with your SLP's and administrators on supporting a shift towards applying AAC for our learners that will need it at as early an age as possible.

All the best to you!


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