Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Computer Based Communication System in Enahncing the Communicative Abilities of Individuals with Severe Aphasia
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One of the most significant recent advances in improving the communicative abilities of individuals with chronic severe aphasia has been the development of augmentative and alternative communication (MC) methods; that is techniques, strategies, and symbols for augmenting or replacing natural speech. The major aim of this proposal was to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a computer-based MC communication system in nonspeaking individuals with aphasia. Eight individuals with severe chronic aphasia received extensive training on a special software program that turns a microcomputer into an electronic communication device. This software program is designed to offer representational graphic/pictorial symbols in conjunction with synthetic voice output to nonspeaking individuals. During the first phase of the training, participants were trained in two primary tasks: first, accessing the software program and identifying and manipulating the symbols/vocabulary items from different grammatical categories; second, constructing sentences using simple subject-verb-object syntax. Phase II involved providing each participant with a communication book which contained symbols specific to each individual subject. The caregivers and the subjects were trained on the efficient and effective use of the book. Overall, the results of this study reveal that individuals with severe aphasia are capable of learning the mechanics of a computer to access, manipulate, and combine graphic symbols to produce simple sentences. The finding that individuals with aphasia can learn computer -based graphic symbols has significant clinical and public policy implications.