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Technology supports for language development in AAC users

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Language development, and specifically syntax and morphology skills, are considered critically important among children with complex communication needs and specific language impairments. These are gateway skills to communication, independence and general education. Several metrics have been described in the literature that quantify the efficacy of interventions targeting these skills. While successful therapist-led interventions have been devised to improve outcomes as measured by these metrics, computerized methods have so far been ineffective in improving outcomes.

Motivated in part by studies describing successful interventions among aphasia patients, we devised a novel system of computerized intervention that targets underlying form for syntax and morphology instruction. This system is a visual grammar that represents syntax and morphology pictorially, allowing AAC users to visualize the thematic relation between different words in a sentence as question/answer pairs. We also devised a set of algorithms that automatically convert utterances built in this visual engine, into grammatically accurate sentences.

We describe ways in which this core system provides scaffolding to an AAC user in the form of tools to expand sentences, recast sentences automatically in grammatically accurate forms, and automatic contingent querying via prompting. This set of functionalities provides an errorless modeling mechanism to the AAC user, and rate enhancement through direct manipulation of phrases.

We present the results of an experiment that demonstrated the effectiveness of this system, in terms of language development metrics described in the literature, based on a study conducted on 6 AAC users with a range of age and disability.


Ajit Narayanan    
Avaz Inc

Lucas Steuber    
United States

Rajesh Kumar    
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras


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