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Comparing picture and text representations (Holyfield, 2021)

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posted on 2021-02-08, 19:29 authored by Christine Holyfield
Purpose: Technology features that maximize communicative benefit while minimizing learning demands must be identified and prioritized to amplify the efficiency and effectiveness of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) intervention. Picture symbols with paired text are a common representation feature in AAC systems for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are preliterate, yet little research about their comparative benefit exists.
Method: Four school-age children with ASD and limited speech who were preliterate participated in two single-subject studies. In one study, communication of high imageability words (e.g., nouns) on an AAC app during a book-reading activity was compared across two representation conditions: picture symbols with paired text and text only. In the second study, communication of low imageability words (e.g., verbs) was compared. Both studies had baseline, intervention, generalization, and maintenance phases.
Results: Prior to intervention, participants communicated across both representation conditions at low rates except two participants who were relatively successful using picture symbol with paired text representations of high imageability words. In response to intervention, all participants demonstrated increases in communication across representation conditions and maintained the increases. Participants demonstrated generalization in the text-only representation condition.
Conclusions: Children with ASD who were preliterate acquired communication at comparable rates regardless of whether an AAC app utilized picture symbol with paired text or text-only representation. Therefore, while larger scale research is needed, clinicians and technology developers could consider increasing the use of text in AAC representation given the inherent value associated with learning to recognize written words.

Supplemental Material S1. Example of an adapted book page.

Holyfield, C. (2021). Comparative effects of picture symbol with paired text and text-only augmentative and alternative communication representations on communication from children with autism spectrum disorder. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Advance online publication.


Funding for this work was received through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation New Investigators Research Grant.