Speech Output TechnologiesSpeech output technologies, or talking computers, can be used to communicate with others. The individual types in to the device or selects a symbol on the device. Then, the computer will "speak" out loud so others can hear and understand the message. There are many speech output programs available for the Apple iPad, as shown in the picture. Many can be installed on computers.
Picture Communication Exchange System (PECS)
In PECS, individuals with autism are taught to exchange a picture for a desired item. The individual receives prompts and feedback to give the picture to the facilitator in exchange for the item. Over time, these prompts are phased out and the individual learns that these pictures must be given to the facilitator in order to receive the object. Eventually, more symbols and pictures are given to the student include verbs and descriptors. The student will learn to make sentences to ask questions and label items.
Obviously not any
device can be handed to a person with autism. Is FC or AAC
more appropriate? Which AAC device should be used? Depending
on the physical and cognitive capabilities of an individual,
there might be some aspects of a certain communication method
that is too difficult for a certain person to use. Therefore,
it is very important to assess a person before determining a
specific type of alternative communication. First, a clinician
must identify what the person needs and the capabilities of a
person by conducting interviews, filling out communication
needs surveys, and observing the person in his or her natural
environment. Then, he or she must assess the skills of the
individual. This includes motor skills, if verbal speech is
present, literacy, sensory feedback, motivation to use
communication, and supports by family and friends, to name a
few. The environment that the person will use this is also
important to note. For example,a person in a wheelchair might
need a communication device to be portable or able to be
mounted on the chair. For others, they might need a
communication system for a work setting while another person
might just need a way to answer yes or no questions. Next, it
is important to determine if and how the person will be taught
the skills to use the alternative communication. If a person
has low cognitive capabilities, an easier system will probably
need to be used. Finally, teach the individual as well as
those who assist him to use the device.
Additionally, there are some considerations that need be addressed when working specifically with autism. Many of these individuals have motor issues and struggle to push buttons or even sit still. Many devices require a lot of precision, so this might not be good for an individual with autism who struggles with this. Additionally, individuals with autism might have an easier time using pictures to communicate instead of words as the pictures help them to understand the message better. Both pictures and words are good tools for learning as well. One of the big characteristics of ASD is difficulties with social interaction. This is important to keep in mind as this communication method is going to be the prime way of socializing. Many AAC device make it easy to communicate and help teach the person how to properly socialize and plan sentences. As we've seen this semester, many devices also have activities built into them to practice these skills. Finally, computer-based devices often work well as it is easy to socialize and does not require any interpretation of social cues. The computer will also always look the same and have some consistency to it, which is something many people with autism need.