Authors: Osguthorpe RT, Chang LL
Title: The effects of computerized symbol processor instruction on the communication skills of nonspeaking students
Source: Augmentative and Alternative Communication 1988 4(1): 23-34
Year: 1988
Research Design: Randomised Controlled Trial
Rating Score: 05/10
This rating is confirmed
Eligibility specified - Y
Random allocation - Y
Concealed allocation - N
Baseline comparability - Y
Blind subjects - N
Blind therapists - N
Blind assessors - N
Adequate follow-up - Y
Intention-to-treat analysis - N
Between-group comparisons - Y
Point estimates and variability - Y

The purpose of this study was to measure the impact on receptive and expressive language skills of teaching nonspeaking students to use a newly developed computerized symbol processor system. The system consisted of an Apple Ile computer, a Power Pad graphics tablet, and software which allowed the user to write with picture symbols by pressing the desired space on the Power Pad. The system was tested with 43 students from three schools: two self-contained day schools for students with mental disabilities and a residential institution for individuals with severe and multiple disabilities. A pretest-posttest control group design was employed to determine if the intervention had any effects on the receptive and expressive language skills of the system users. Those in the treatment group were taught to use the system for 15 to 20 minutes per day, 5 days a week for 8 consecutive weeks. Those in the control group received no instruction on the system, but participated in their regular classroom instruction during this period. Monitoring procedures, interim tests, and questionnaires were also used to evaluate the merits and worth of the program. The results of this study show that students with severe communication impairments can be taught in a relatively short period of time to express themselves independently in writing. The results further show that students who were taught to use the symbol processor system (those in the treatment group) did significantly better on measures of language comprehension and symbol recognition than those who received no instruction (the control group).

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