Emergence of Visual-Graphic Symbol Combinations by Youth With Moderate or Severe Mental Retardation Research and practice on augmentative communication for persons with moderate or severe mental retardation have primarily targeted the acquisition and use of single symbols. Symbol combinations, however, provide insight into how augmented communicators use individual symbols to build more complex communications. In Study 1, untaught symbol combinations produced during natural ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 1994
Emergence of Visual-Graphic Symbol Combinations by Youth With Moderate or Severe Mental Retardation
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Krista M. Wilkinson
    Georgia State University, Atlanta
  • Mary Ann Romski
    Georgia State University, Atlanta
  • Rose A. Sevcik
    Georgia State University, Atlanta
  • Contact author: Mary Ann Romski, PhD, Department of Communication, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303-3083.
Article Information
Development / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 1994
Emergence of Visual-Graphic Symbol Combinations by Youth With Moderate or Severe Mental Retardation
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1994, Vol. 37, 883-895. doi:10.1044/jshr.3704.883
History: Received May 4, 1993 , Accepted February 19, 1994
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1994, Vol. 37, 883-895. doi:10.1044/jshr.3704.883
History: Received May 4, 1993; Accepted February 19, 1994

Research and practice on augmentative communication for persons with moderate or severe mental retardation have primarily targeted the acquisition and use of single symbols. Symbol combinations, however, provide insight into how augmented communicators use individual symbols to build more complex communications. In Study 1, untaught symbol combinations produced during natural communication interactions by 7 subjects with mental retardation were examined for their semantic, ordering, and generalization patterns. The symbol combinations largely resembled those produced by young speaking language learners, suggesting that the augmented communicators were following typical patterns of communication in generating their symbol combinations. In Study 2, we examined the symbol combinations modeled for subjects by their partners. The structure of the modeled combinations did not resemble the children’s productions, indicating that the children could not have relied on simple rote imitation for their combination production. These results suggest that augmented communicators with mental retardation may use their symbols as speaking children use oral words in the development of complex communications.

Acknowledgments
A portion of this research is based on a Master’s thesis submitted by the first author, under the direction of the second author, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts degree in Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta. The preparation of this manuscript and the research described within were funded by grant NICHD-06016, which sustains the Language Research Center operated by Georgia State University. Additional support was provided by the Department of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State University. Manuscript preparation was also funded by grant NICHD-25995 to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation, Inc., and by a contract from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (100220023SC).
The authors gratefully acknowledge the youth who participated in the longitudinal study as well as their families and the Clayton County school system personnel for their enthusiastic cooperation during the conduct of the study. Thanks are also extended to Lauren B. Adamson, Robin D. Morris, and Michael Tomasello for their roles as committee members during the completion of the thesis and to Byron F. Robinson for his assistance with some of the calculations.
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