Symbol Vocabulary and the Focus of Conversations Augmenting Language Development for Youth With Mental Retardation Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1992
Symbol Vocabulary and the Focus of Conversations
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Lauren B. Adamson
    Georgia State University and Emory University Atlanta, GA
  • Mary Ann Romski
    Georgia State University and Emory University Atlanta, GA
  • Kim Deffebach
    Georgia State University and Emory University Atlanta, GA
  • Rose A. Sevcik
    Georgia State University and Emory University Atlanta, GA
  • Contact author: Lauren B. Adamson, PhD, Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, University Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303.
Article Information
Development / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1992
Symbol Vocabulary and the Focus of Conversations
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1992, Vol. 35, 1333-1343. doi:10.1044/jshr.3506.1333
History: Received November 12, 1991 , Accepted April 22, 1992
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1992, Vol. 35, 1333-1343. doi:10.1044/jshr.3506.1333
History: Received November 12, 1991; Accepted April 22, 1992

Communication devices designed to augment the language development of individuals with severe cognitive disabilities and little or no functional speech typically contain primarily nouns because they seem easiest to acquire and evaluate. In this study, the effect of a more diverse vocabulary was assessed. Systematic observations of the use of computerized speech-output devices by 12 youth with moderate or severe mental retardation and severe spoken language disability and by their partners were made over a 2-year period. Social-regulative symbols (e.g., "please," "I’m finished") were used as soon as they were introduced, and their availability expanded the focus of conversations both at home and at school. Implications for conceptualizing variation in early language use and for the design of language intervention programs are discussed.

Acknowledgments
The order of the first two authors is arbitrary. The research described here was funded by grant NICHD–06016, which sustains the Language Research Center cooperatively operated by Georgia
State University and the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center of Emory University. Additional support is provided by the College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State University, and by RR–00165 to the Yerkes Center.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, April, 1991. The authors gratefully acknowledge the children who participated in this study, their families, and the Clayton County school personnel for their enthusiastic cooperation during the conduct of the longitudinal study. We also wish to thank Robert Casey, Holly K. Middleton, Byron Robinson, and Krista Wilkinson for their help with data coding and analysis, and Roger Bakeman for his advice on statistical issues.
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