MSC01 1195
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Early Expressive Language Development

Language-learning expectations for children with severe speech impairments frequently are set way too low. Just because a child does not have intelligible speech does not mean that the child cannot learn to put sentences together and gain other expressive language skills!

To help combat this issue, we are studying ways to use AAC to help children achieve their linguistic potentials. We've completed a series of studies on this topic and continue to expand our work in this area.

Past Projects

Our completed work in this area has included:

  • A study investigating methods to teach children who use AAC how to use grammatical morphemes (for example, plural –s, past tense –ed, progressive –ing). The three children in this study all learned to use these grammatical markers consistently. Findings indicated that the combined use of modeling the structures on the children's AAC devices, correcting errors the children made, and providing contrastive models (for example, past tense –ed vs. progressive –ing) resulted in consistent improvement in their performance. 
  • A series of studies in which we've taught young children to create symbol combinations using their AAC devices. In the first of these studies (Binger & Light, 2007), Cathy found that providing models of symbol combinations using the child's AAC device was a key component for teaching this skill to young children. In subsequent studies, various communication partners including educational assistants and Latino parents used a cueing hierarchy to teach their students and children how to create symbol combinations. 

 Present and Future Projects

In our most work, we're refining our methodologies and teaching children to use very specific, early linguistic structures, such as agent-action (MICKEY SLEEPS) and possessor-entity (MINNIE'S BED). 

We have two projects in this area currently on the go. Both projects are designed to help children recognize that their job is to take the words in their head and put those same words - using the same word order – on their AAC devices.

  • Teaching Children who use AAC to use Rule-Based Semantic-Syntactic Relations
    Cathy Binger is leading this 3-year project which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (more specifically, by the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders). This study focuses on teaching preschoolers to use symbols on their AAC devices to create short messages that follow basic, early grammar rules. Specifically, children are learning to create the following kinds of messages:
    • Agent-action, such as WOODY CRIES and BUZZ JUMPS
    • Possessor-entity, such as JESSIE'S HOTDOG and BULLSEYE'S BANANA
    • Attribute-entity, such as HAPPY BUZZ and SAD ALIEN

  • Teaching Children who use AAC to ask Inverted Yes-No Questions
    Jennifer Kent-Walsh is taking the lead on a study funded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. This study is designed to teach children to use symbols on their AAC devices to create simple statements (GOOFY IS SLEEPING) and ask simple yes-no questions (IS GOOFY SLEEPING?).