Augmentative and Alternate Communication for Autism
Jennifer A. McIntyre
This literature review is to help educators review research on assistive technology andA\how it relates to the lives of students who have disabilities. The focus of this literature review is to explore what AAC is, how it benefits students who have autism, and current research on AAC . Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a large range of people who fall into different parts of the spectrum (from high functioning all the way to low functioning). Some people on the autism spectrum have limited or no verbal ability to communicate. Assistive technology has opened that dark doors and sheds light on the ability for these people to share their knowledge, thoughts, beliefs, values, etc. with the world. Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Assistive technology service is directly assisting an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device (P.L. 100-407, Sec.3 1988). Autism, a lifelong disability, is a spectrum disorder that is identified in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, usually evident before age 3 that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with ASD are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected because the child has an emotional disturbance. Autism is also identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM- IV (APA, 1994) as a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by perceptual, cognitive, and social differences. The DSM-IV classified Autism as a disorder within a broader group of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) which includes Autism, Childhood Disintegrated Disorder (CDD), Rett’s Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Discover Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). Practitioners and education professionals frequently use the term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when referring to any or all of these disorders. Most parents of children with autism first begin to be concerned that something is not quite right in their child’s development because of early delays or regressions in the development of speech (Short & Schopler, 1988). Problems with communication, in terms of both understanding and expression, are often said to be one of the main causes of the severe behavior problems that are common among persons with severe autism and mental retardation (Carr et al., 1999). The lack of meaningful, spontaneous speech by age five has been associated with poor adult outcomes (Billstedt, 2007; Billstedt, Gillberg, & Gillberg, 2005; Howlin, Goode, Hutton, & Rutter, 2004; Shea & Mesibov, 2005). Certainly, communication and communication problems are at the heart of what ASD is all about. Broadly speaking, a diagnosis or referral for assessment for autism is made when an individual possess characteristics in these three areas: qualitative impairment in social interaction, qualitative impairments in communication, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior in interests and activities (Haq, Countuer 2004; Ozonoff, South, & Miller, 2000). While all people who have autism have various forms of communication and language difficulties, there is a considerable range among...