By Cameron Smith
University of Mississippi
Two University of Mississippi graduate students in communication sciences and diseases have taken steps in their studies to use augmentative communication/assistive technology to help people with communication disorders.
Mallory Robertson, of Poteau, Oklahoma, and Tyler Standland, of Hattiesburg, who both completed master’s degrees this spring, are conducting research that makes it easier for children with language disorders to communicate effectively.
Robertson focuses on caregivers of children who use devices that generate speech. Speech-generating tools are used as a high-tech form of augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC, tools, that help people with language or language disabilities communicate.
Robertson’s project used a training program to help caregivers learn more about their child’s device and some language input techniques.
“Importantly in this case, the language input help is not only to speak to your child, but to demonstrate the child’s device use in a compelling way to model their child that the AAC device can be used as a way to they can communicate. etc., “Robertson said.” Our participants are from the HILL Program based at the UM Speech and Hearing Clinic. “
The HILL Language and Literacy Program provides intensive language therapy to children with moderate to severe language disorders.
Robertson’s co-authors on the project are Gina Keene, a former employee of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and a speech-language pathologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs, and Carolyn Wiles Higdon, an Ole Miss professor and speech-language pathologist. .
“We are interested in learning more about caregivers and their perceptions of their child’s AAC, how confident they are in using the tool and their response to a teletherapy training program,” she said. Robertson. “Parents and families have been shown to have the greatest impact on a child’s likelihood of using their AAC devices.”
Standland studied whether a modified electronic toy could be used to help a visually impaired child with a communication disorder.
Getting to learn and operate AAC devices, such as a device that creates speech, often relies on vision.
“It can be even more difficult for a child with cortical vision impairment and multiple language learning disabilities or to communicate at all,” Standland said. “Our research looks at transforming a familiar electronic toy into an AAC system for a child with cortical vision impairment and multiple disabilities.”
Standland adapted a VTech Learn and Dance Interactive Zoo to act as a device that creates speaking for his project.
“For example, if a toy button is selected, instead of playing a song, the toy will say a word that our client always wants to say,” Standland said. “The child in this project is already familiar with this toy from playing with it, so it doesn’t require full use of vision to use the tool for communication.
“After implementing the new device in speech therapy sessions, we collected data revealing significant growth in communication.”
For his study, Standland’s research team included Keene; Steven Townsend, a leading application developer in Mobile, Alabama; Higdon; and the participant in this case study and his or her family.
As a result of Robertson and Standland’s recent work, they were able to showcase their talents at the Assistive Technology Industry Association, or ATIA, international meeting.
Standland was previously presented in Washington, DC, by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in November 2021, and was presented by both Standland and Robertson at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders ’Fall Institute on the Ole Miss campus.
ATIA is the world’s largest organization that brings together developers, distributors, educators and users of assistive technology for all types of disabilities. Assistive technology is any object, equipment, software program or product system used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities.
“The acceptance of Mallory and Tyler’s progressive research on their two aspects to improve communication / improvement delays and cortical visual impairment / assistive technology highlights the advancement of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders to make the world more accessible to all by building connections within our university and local community., ”said Higdon.
“Every member of this department offers unique knowledge and training to students, so a village is needed.”
Higdon praised the driving and engaging students in their chosen profession.
“Mallory and Tyler have not only a very good work ethic, but an internal drive to make a difference in our field,” he said. “They are innovative and creative, with the ability to take their academic and clinical training to a new level with their abilities to see the next step needed by clinical services or needs. in technology. “
For more information about the communication sciences and diseases or the HILL Program at UM, email Higdon at [email protected] or visit https://csd.olemiss.edu.