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Augmentative communication 1991.

Augmentative Communication 1991

This year Prentke Romich Company is celebrating twenty-five years of contribution to the field of assistive technology for people with disabilities. Established in 1966, we built our first augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system over two decades ago. AAC is now the primary area of focus for PRC, others being computer access and environmental control. Since Exceptional Parent's directory in this issue is dedicated to AAC, it offers an opportunity to assess where the field is today and the role being played by PRC.


We believed that each person with a disability has the right to full participation in our society and that assistive technology can be a tool in realizing this right.


Over the years it has become clear that no single communication system can serve the needs of all people. In fact, each individual needs more than a single system if the potential for personal achievement is to be maximized. Spoken, written, and gestural communication all serve different purposes. Each person should have access to all three. PRC offers AAC devices with high quality digitized and synthetic speech output and the capability of connecting to a printer and/or computer.

The selection of a system that allows the highest possible level of personal achievement generally comes out of a comprehensive transdisciplinary evaluation. The speech-language pathologist on the team must have a working knowledge of all vocabulary organization systems. We believe that for most people the use of semantic vocabulary coding (Minspeak [TM]) is most appropriate. AAC professionals familiar with the power of Minspeak report recommending Minspeak systems for three out of four clients who need electronic voice output. For referral to assessment teams in your area who have received Minspeak training, contact PRC.

Service is of critical importance to users of assistive technology and has become a prime consideration in device selection. PRC has built a customer service reputation that is second to none. The PRC consultant system is unique and the 24-hour technical and application telephone support is highly valued among PRC device users and their families.


Simply giving a person a device does not result in effective communication. To the contrary, those devices which are the most powerful in the long run generally require the greatest intervention. PRC has addressed this issue through the development of MARs (Minspeak Application Programs). MAPs are prepackaged symbol and vocabulary systems authored by recognized AAC specialists. They offer a strong starting point and can be customized to the individual. MAPs are presently available for the full range of AAC users, from young children with mental retardation to adults with advanced degrees.

AAC system users have a language that exists between them and their systems. As with learning any language, an investment in training is needed. (Those of us with keyboard skills type far faster than those without such skills, but only after we invested in the skill acquisition). Training is an important aspect of the intervention process. To facilitate this, PRC offers training seminars based on each of the MAPs. Also, we established the Minspeak Learning and Resource Center (MLRC) operating as an independent non-profit charitable organization. MLRC offers two-week intensive training programs centered around specific MAPs. Similar communication camps emphasizing Minspeak occur at other places around the country. Again, contact PRC for referral information.


The past quarter century has produced amazing results in the area of assistive technology becoming part of many legislative initiatives. Yet much remains to be done. Too few people are even aware of the existence of AAC systems and the impact they can have on the lives of nonspeaking people. Most new graduates in the rehabilitation professionals have had little or no exposure to assistive technology in their educational experience. Many practicing clinicians are in the same situation. (At PRC we have been addressing this need by offering training sessions attended by about 4000 people annually.) Also, as a result of perceived funding limitation, some nonspeaking people are receiving devices that do not allow them to achieve their potential. (The PRC funding department helps with the identification of funding sources, assuring that compromises in personal achievement do not result from prevailing myths about funding availability.) Indeed the challenge is great. However, by working together and adhering to principles of propriety, we can expect the future to be brighter still for people with assistive technology needs.


For those interested in AAC, there are many resources now available. The PRC Regional Consultant may be one of the most valuable. These people are salaried professionals, most with educational and experiential backgrounds in speech-language pathology or special education. The PRC quarterly newsletter Current Expressions has become a resource for thousands of people interested in assistive technology. If you are not receiving it, call or write to get on the mailing list. The annual Minspeak Conference is another source of information with presenations by professionals, parents, and Minspeak users. Annual proceedings are available.

ISAAC is the International Soceity for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. USSAAC is the United States Chapter. ISAAC works to advance the field of AAC. The official journal of ISAAC is AAC. PRC provides a voucher for a one year consumer membership in ISAAC with each new Minspeak system, and sponsors AAC awards and ISAAC scholarships.

Hear Our Voice is a membership organization of persons who do not speak, their family members, caregivers and friends. The primary interests of Hear Our Voices include group and individual advocacy and the influence of public policy. Your membership would be welcomed. All Minspeak system users are entitled to a one year membership in Hear Our Voices, courtesy of Prentke Romich Company.
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Title Annotation:includes related augmentative/alternative communication directory; Special Advertising Section
Author:Romich, Barry A.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Past, present, future; an advocate's perspective.
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