Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Journal 8: Adaptive Technology


Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is any way of communicating other than through spoken language, such as through the use of writing, signs, symbols, facial expressions, or communication aid tools.  While we all utilize such methods of communication every day, AAC is most prevalent among those who are unable to speak, hear, or otherwise communication through spoken language.

Low-Tech Communication Tools

The most commonly used AAC tool is one that requires no technology: sign language.  Those who lack spoken language can communicate exactly what want to say through the use of sign language.  Sign language is also commonly used by children and adults who have mental and/or physical disabilities.  An incredible advantage to sign language is that it can be used easily in classrooms that are integrated with both mainstream and special needs students.  Teachers who are fluent in sign language can sign lessons as they are teaching them, assuring that deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students are able to follow along, while not taking away from other student's class time.

Another commonly used low-tech AAC tool is the picture exchange communication system (PECS).  PECS was originally conceived in 1985 as a tool to aid individuals with autism spectrum disorder, and has since become a integral part of communication with people who have a wide variety of disabilities.  PECS involves the the student learning how to use picture based cards to ask for or specific things are to communicate ideas.

 What Is PECS?

  The system requires a communication partner who also understand PECS and can honor the requests made through the cards.  Students using PECS begin their studies by learning how to use one card at a time to ask for specific items or to do specific activities.  The students then learn how to create simple sentences by using several cards at once. They also learn how to answer questions and to describe their surroundings and what they are feeling.  PECS is commonly used in classrooms as it allows students and teachers to easily communicate with each other without disrupting students who do not use the system.

High-Tech Communication Tool
DynaVox is an example of a very high-tech AAC tool.  DynaVox is a speech generating device, what allows those with limited or no speech to generate messages and have those messages spoke from the device in a computerized voice.  This device is very effective for many people with language disabilities, as it is very versatile in that it responds to several different forms of inputting messages.  The DynaVox will create a spoken message from a picture that is tapped by the user or a message that is typed into the keyboard, but can also track eye movement and puffs of air.  The latter two capabilities are extremely useful for those with severe physical handicaps, as they are not always able to successfully select pictures or type on a keyboard.  This tool would be very effective in the classroom because listener would not necessarily need to be proficient in the workings of the devise.  Most teachers and aids would be able to communicate with a DynaVox user very easily, regardless of their handicap.


Input devices are tools used to input information into computers, such as keyboards, scanners, and mice.  However, certain tools are specifically made for those with disabilities that affect language and communication.

A hardware device that provides aid to those with disabilities that affect motor skills is the IntelliKeys keyboard.  This keyboard works similarly any regular keyboard would, but it has an increased surface area and more space in between keys, making it easier to hit the correct key more consistently.  The IntelliKeys keyboard can be connected to any computer through its USB port, making it easily usable on school computers.

A software device that is intended to help those with physical and cognitive disabilities is the Word Prediction software.  This software predicts words that are being typed based on the first few letters of the word.  A drop-down list of possible words appears and the desired word can be selected.  This software decreases the number of keystrokes that need to be make in order to type a desired message, and therefore decreases the number of mistakes made.

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