Teaching AAC Early on Impacts Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4312 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] By examining this and making a determination as to whether this type of teaching is beneficial, researchers and educators can both benefit from the information presented herein. Educators can take this information and use it to help the children in their care. Researchers can take this same information and use it to indicate that further study into this area needs to the conducted so that children that deal with autism can be taught skills early in their lives that will allow them to communicate as they grow older.

CHAPTER TWO

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Literature into this idea is somewhat sparse but there is enough information to present here and provide an idea of the types of issues that are being examined when discussing autism and AAC. There are many ways to help children that have autism and other learning disabilities, and many of those ways do not deal with teaching them speech directly, but rather with teaching them ways to communicate that they can feel more comfortable with. Once they are comfortable with these issues than they will be more likely to work their way up to normal verbal communication at a time that they feel ready for.

The important thing to look at in a review such as this is what others are doing and what is considered best practice out in the field of special education and teaching special-needs children. Many studies suggest that students who are autistic and lagging behind their peers may benefit from yearly instruction in AAC (Blischak, Loncke, & Waller, 1997; Mirenda, 1990). One way that AAC is sometimes conducted is by teaching children to match pictures to objects on a communication board. The child can then use these objects to make requests and to ask for what they need (Kozleski, 1991). A system of prompting that remains mostly nonintrusive has also been used in an effort to teach children with autism to use and practice communication skills (Dyches, 1998).

Another AAC system that is sometimes used is sign language (Venn, et al., 1993). Children with autism, as well as hearing-impaired children and children with other disabilities, can be taught to use sign language during lunch and snack times and during other times of the day when they can feel comfortable using and practicing this type of communication. While it may not be appropriate for all times and places, it is important that these children find some way to communicate with their peers and with other individuals. Sign language can sometimes allow them this type of communication and help them to feel more secure and comfortable throughout their day because they feel like there is always someone that they are able to communicate with (McNaughton & Light, 1993).

Another way that AAC can help with autistic behavior is by working to control behavior that is becoming problematic. This is often called by the term functional communication training (Carr & Durand, 1985; Durand & Carr, 1991). Throughout several studies it has been indicated that researchers have taught students to curb their problematic behavior and instead use some form of sign or symbol to indicate what it is that they need. Students have been taught to request the attention of a teacher by assigning that they need help (Horner & Day, 1991). They have also been taught to press a button that indicates they need assistance rather than using sign language (Horner, Sprague, O'Brien, & Heathfield, 1990).

Other studies have shown that autistic children can request that they would like to take a break (Bird, Dores, Moniz, & Robinson, 1989), or they can request an object that they need by using sign language (Durand & Kishi, 1987). This may help them work of their way into mainstream classrooms more often than they have been able to do in the past. Other studies have shown that students who receive instruction into AAC training and the way that they should treat their peers often tolerate autistic children and other disabled children in the classroom much better than students that have not previously been taught about different ways of communicating with other individuals (Mirenda & Calculator, 1993).

While it is clear that research suggests that autistic students can do much with AAC training, some studies have shown that there is mixed reaction from teachers and mixed levels of implementation as well (Agran & Alper 2000; Agran, Alper, & Wehmeyer 2002). Many individuals still believe that autistic children are not helped by training that does not directly relate to speech and verbal communication skills. However, studies that have been discussed in the previous pages would show a contradiction to that opinion. Even though students have done well with many other things that these researchers have taught them, there still has been little to no discussion about whether these particular children picked up verbal communication skills and learned language faster or easier than autistic children that have not have the benefit of this type of communication training.

This is one area where the literature is sadly lacking. Since there have not been many studies into this type of information there is not a great deal that can be said about it at this point. However, it is important to consider that there is still much work to be done and that studies such as this one will help to encourage other researchers and educators to look into this issue further and attempt to find an answer as to whether this type of training and communication skills information is best for autistic children.

CHAPTER THREE

METHODOLOGY

Design

The design of this particular research project will be a twofold process. Surveys will be given to the sample group of parents who have agreed to allow their children to participate in the study. These parents will complete a questionnaire about how well their child verbalizes his or her thoughts and whether the child has been taught any alternative way to communicate other than speech. These parents will also complete a questionnaire when the second part of the process has been completed, in order to determine if there has been any marked effect on the children that were taught an alternative way to communicate. Some of the children in the study will be taught with alternative methods and others will not. The parents will not know which children are receiving training so that their answers on the questionnaires will not be skewed by the impression that their child is or is not learning how to do something else.

Setting

Since the time constraints and research budget do not allow for a long and involved study the time spent with the autistic students will take place in the classroom with permission from the parents, the teacher, and the principal of the school. Since the students will be in their classrooms they will likely feel comfortable enough not to act unduly different than they would on a normal day. This will allow for observation of the students and will allow the researcher to discuss issues with the teacher that might become important for the study results.

Participants or Subjects

The participants in the study will be both children and parents. The parents will be considered participants because they will be filling out the questionnaires as well as giving consent for their child to participate in the study. The children in the study will be kindergarten and first grade only, as teaching these alternative communication skills to children at a young age is the focus of the study. Ideally, preschool or younger children would be a better choice but the researcher feels that children that are slightly older will be somewhat easier to work with and parents of these children may be more likely to give consent for the study because they will be more comfortable with the disabilities and individual achievements of their children, and will therefore not be as uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger studying their children in the hopes of helping future generations.

The more children involved in the study the better it will be, but the study can be conducted with as few as 10 children. It would be better to have 20 or even 30 children because a larger number would give a more accurate result. However, the study will work with a small number and this is likely what will be used because it will be difficult to find that many autistic children at a given school or schools in the local area that will allow the researcher to come in and study the children as well as request the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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