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Are Children Seeing the Same Thing as Adults? Comparing Eye-movements During a Symbol Search Task

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This study examined the eye-movements of three age groups to better understand how to organize symbols within an AAC device. Sixty participants took part in this study; 20 students in junior and senior kindergarten, 20 students in grade 4 and grade 5, and 20 students in 1st and 2nd year university (undergraduate). They were asked to locate a symbol within a series of 60 speech grids (4x4 interfaces) that were thematically based and created using Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) from the Boardmaker ® Plus! Program. Eye-movements were recorded using the EyeLink 1000 system. Accuracy and response times were also recorded. Results revealed that accuracy was high across all cells and there were no significant differences between cells. Participants had faster response times, longer fixation times, higher number of fixations and higher likelihood to fixate symbols when located in the 2nd and 3rd rows, as well as those in the 2nd and 3rd columns. The opposite was observed for the 4th row and the 4th column. In regards to reaction times and accuracy, adults had significantly faster reaction times and higher accuracy than grade 4/5 students and kindergarten students. The former children were also faster and more accurate than the latter. The results of this study confirmed that symbol organization within AAC devices influences the speed and accuracy of retrieving symbols. Adapting the way devices are currently organized could assist in making communicating with AAC devices quicker and more efficient for individuals who use these systems on a daily basis.

Author(s):

Maxine Perrin    
Laurentian University/University of Ottawa
Canada

Manon Robillard    
Laurentian University
Canada

Annie Roy-Charland    
Laurentian University
Canada

 

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