The impact of aided language stimulation on the receptive language abilities of children with little or no functional speech

Author: Dada, Shakila


Educational level: PhD (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)

Discipline: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

University: University of Pretoria

Abstract: Comprehension of spoken language skills are often taken for granted in research concerning early childhood language acquisition in typically developing children. While the onset of early word comprehension arguably precedes word production, traditional research has focused on language production rather than comprehension. A similar trend of focussing on expression is evident in the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Traditionally, the role of AAC systems for individuals with little or no functional speech (LNFS) has been as an output mode for expressing messages. While this is an essential role and final outcome of AAC intervention strategies, the role of listeners is equally important. The comprehension of spoken language provides an essential foundation upon which language production competence can be built.AAC users' ability to comprehend spoken language is varied from age equivalent comprehension of spoken language to minimal comprehension. Some AAC users comprehend spoken language and therefore come to the AAC acquisition task with an established knowledge of spoken language. Others who experience difficulty comprehending spoken language require AAC as both input (receptive) and output (expressive) mode. Graphic symbols play a role in facilitating comprehension of messages either through facilitating the comprehension of the spoken language or the AAC symbols. The use of augmented input strategies like aided language stimulation is one type of instructional technique used in teaching graphic symbols to AAC users. aided language stimulation refers to a technique in which a facilitator or communication partner combines the use of AAC with natural speech through simultaneously pointing to graphic symbols and speaking.The aim of this study was therefore to determine the impact of a three week long aided language stimulation program on the receptive language skills of children with LNFS. Four children participated in this multiple probe study. The aided language stimulation programme comprised three activities viz. arts and crafts, food preparation and story time activity. Each activity was repeated over duration of five subsequent sessions. Eight target vocabulary items were taught within each activity. The acquisition of all 24 target items were probed throughout the duration of the three week intervention period. The results indicated that all the participants acquired the target receptive vocabulary items. There were, however, variations in terms of the rate of acquisition. There was no statistically significant improvement in the general receptive language abilities of the participants.

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Keywords: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), receptive language abilities, aided language stimulation, augmented input, little or no functional speech


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