10:00 - 10:40
Kristine Stadskleiv // Pragmatic skills in aided communicators in special and inclusive education
Successful communication depends upon pragmatic skills like choosing the correct words at the right time. Children develop their pragmatic skills using their language, implying that aided communicators may be at a disadvantage if they are not in an environment where their language is used. Inclusive practices therefore both supports and is supported by the development of pragmatic skills. In the Becoming an aided communicator (BAC) project, pragmatic understanding was investigated. BAC is an international multi-center study including aided communicators with age-appropriate cognitive functioning. Type of pragmatic functions used and how relevant the children’s responses were was analyzed, in relation to mode of aided communication, the child’s verbal comprehension and communicative functioning, and the educational setting of the child.
10:40 - 11:05
Aleksandra Jovic // Voice for every child - Regional approach in increasing availability and use of AT for AAC
UNICEF’s Regional office for Europe and Central Asia has been piloting a joint initiative to bring affordable Assistive Technology for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. Bulgaria and North Macedonia joined the project in 2021.
An open source mobile app, “Cboard” is being introduced by UNICEF and partners to support young children with complex communication needs who otherwise may be left out of early childhood education services. The tool promotes interaction, helps overcome speech impairments, develops language and steers these children towards an education and active social life right from their early years.
An AAC tablet-based communicator – Cboard, which is available in over 30 languages, and accesses the Global symbols database of over 20,000 symbols – is being tested for effectiveness with children, professionals and parents. Cboard is an open-source, offline-compatible and freely available AAC application, designed for scalability and access to reach many more children in the future around the globe. In low-tech settings, the pictographic symbol sets can also be exported from Cboard and printed to support communication work with children using paper-based resources.
Professionals including pre-school teachers, speech and language therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists and special educators are being trained to identify and support young children with speech, language, and communication related difficulties who could benefit from assistive technology. A robust training package developed for this purpose and delivered as a combination of face to face and on-line learning is readily available to support professionals from other countries.
11:05 - 11:20
Željka Car & Jasmina Pavliša // Voice for every child - initiatives and support
11:20 - 11:40
Maria Yankova-Mladenova & Anna Dincheva // Support for the systematic introduction of assistive technologies in education and enhancing the capacity of supporting structures and services in the country
Since 2016 UNICEF Bulgaria supports the introduction of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies in the system of pre-school and school education by stimulating the building of positive attitudes in society and among professionals about the possibilities of these technologies, but also increases the capacity of the professionals themselves for the systematic and sustainable introduction of AAC in support of children with special needs.
At a time when Bulgaria is still adjusting inclusive education practices and policies, including first attempts to move from the medical to the social model of assessment and support for children with special needs and disabilities, it is extremely important to improve the understanding of the basic need for communication and interaction, as well as to raise awareness of approaches and means supporting this communication. A study of the attitudes, competencies and practices of professionals in Bulgaria will be presented and the main strands of support from UNICEF for the introduction of AAC will be presented, including support for the development of the legal framework, development of training packages for professionals and qualification programs, development of an interactive platform podkrepi.me to improve the quality of additional support for children with special needs, including through AAC, as well as adapting for Bulgaria free and accessible AAC resources and tools.
Special attention will be paid to the role and tasks of the Regional Centres for supporting the process of inclusive education as supporting and sustainable units in the inclusive education system by presenting the experience of the center in Sofia city.
11:40 - 12:10
12:10 - 12:30
Mónika Tóth // Establishing AAC-Network in Hungary
I would like to introduce the AAC-Modell Program in the framework of the MONTÁZS Project (EFOP 1.9.2.-VEKOP-16-2016-00001) called „Developping accessibility to special and public services for persons with disabilities”. The main goals were:
setting up regional (6) AAC-centres in Hungary with complex services e.g. assessement of communication competency, providing trainings and support for the target group and their families, supporting professionals working with CCN persons in special and public organisations
achiving these goals we had to train professionals on AAC-competencies
creating special AAC-library with a wide range of equipements from low-tech to high-tech devices.
In the second part of my presentation I would like to focus on the conlusions of the 4-year long period such as good practices, experiences, future plans. Beside being the coordinator I worked with CCN persons, families, professionals directly, which gave me different insight of the use of AAC.
12:40 - 13:00
Ida Brandão // ICT Resource Centres for Special Needs - Free Tools & Resources for Inclusion
The network of ICT Resource Centres for Special Needs in Portugal have the responsibility to assess students’ needs for assistive technology to access curriculum and learning, since 2007. They have an important role to train for the use of AT, since they are the AT prescribers of the Ministry of Education, belonging to a vaster system of national prescribers of assistive products.
This network of 25 centres covers all portuguese schools and has been recognized as one of the organizational resources to support learning and inclusion in the recent Inclusive Education Law of 2018.
Considering a general recommendation to explore free tools and resources, the ICT Resource Centres have produced many resources, such as the adaptation of children stories and other didactic materials into AAC symbols, as well as video tutorials about free software and videos on the use of AT by students. They have also produced many AT devices with recycled materials, such as sensory materials, switches, talking devices, makey makey and arduino projects.
13:10 - 13:30
Tomasz Grabowski // Speak without words
A video presentation
13:30 - 14:30
14:30 - 14:50
Björn Tibbling // Eye-Gaze Gaming to Motivate Learning
Children learn through exploration and play, and gaming is one of the most motivational tools to promote development and growth – regardless of age and motor or cognitive ability; It holds the key to inclusion, participation, and ultimately independence while having loads of fun!
15:00 - 15:20
Madalina Constantin & Alina Tutu // Free resources supporting AAC and online learning in Special School St. Nicholas
Our presentation focuses on the strategies we have been using in our school for including nonverbal students in online learning, so that they are not left out during the difficult time of pandemic. In our school, nonverbal students are taught to use no–tech or low-tech communication devices (communication books, boards or cards) due to the economic situation of families and school resources. Teachers use school resources to produce the support for AAC for each child.
15:30 - 15:50
Dave Gilbert // Which Mouse Equivalent to choose?
With more than 15 mouse equivalents to choose from, Pretorian’s range is by far the broadest in the
assistive technology space. But which should you choose for a particular client? Dave Gilbert
discusses some of the ways in which each can be used and which are the best choices for particular
conditions, particular situations and particular software, including AAC software such as Grid 3.
16:00 - 16:20
ANJELA - a movie by Vilma Kartalska
Since her birth, Anjela has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a fighter at heart, full of life and curiosity about the world around her, she does not allow this to break her. Her need to communicate freely with people led her to art, where, although confined to a wheelchair, she flies. She dances, plays, writes and creates. As she leads her silent fight for the people with special needs.
The stories of her relatives and colleagues, reveal her strength and her work. They take turns with animated pieces, where we hear the computer voice with which she speaks to us today, while writing with her eyes on a computer. In them, the physical freedom of the animated Anjela takes her to all the places of her dreams.
Director: VILMA KARTALSKA
Production Company: RAIZA VILM PRODUCTIONS, PRIME PRODUCTIONS
Country, year: BULGARIA, 2021
16:20 - 16:50
16:50 - 17:10
Beata Batorowicz // The social participation and engagement of children and youth with severe motor and communication impairments
By interacting with others, children encounter and solve problems, communicate, and learn to consider others’ perspectives. Social understanding and pragmatic reasoning are skills that begin to develop during childhood interactions while children participate in social activities such as play, act in their physical environment, interact with others, and learn how to communicate social behaviour in accordance with the expectations of society. Children, who have severe motor and communication impairments, often lack opportunities to play and interact with peers due to limitations in their speech or movement. Social interactions are often restricted because these children are unable to control their environment through physical actions or communication. While using currently available augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies (such as speech generating devices) can help, it is typically slow and time-consuming, especially for children and youth with severe physical disabilities. This lack of ability to communicate in real-time is particularly problematic in peer interactions. This presentation will discuss current research concerning the social participation of children with severe motor and communication impairments and emerging evidence on supportive strategies.
17:20 - 17:40
Gail Teachman // Voice as Dialogical: Lessons from critical qualitative research with youth who use AAC.
How do normative understandings of ‘voice’ mediate research with persons who communicate differently? Can researchers ‘give voice’ to participants who use AAC? Qualitative research is often reliant on idealized conceptions of voice as the singular possession of an autonomous individual. This framing grants authority to some accounts while raising concerns about the authenticity of those generated with participants who use AAC. In this presentation, I discuss these issues in the context of a study about inclusion with young people who use AAC. Drawing examples from the study and subsequent application in other areas, I demonstrate the value added through conceptualizing voice as dialogical. I suggest the implications of this work for research and practice more generally, highlighting the dialogical relation that is all our communication.
17:50 - 18:30
Judy Wine // Prelude to ISAAC
AAC is a relatively new field of intervention. Isolated interest in providing tools for communication for people without speech began to pop up in different countries during the 1960s. In the 1970s this interest grew and became more widespread. There were no personal computers, no Internet, no virtual communication at that time. Knowledge was spread through presentations at conferences, professional and personal visits around the globe, and word of mouth. Two non-speech conferences were held in Toronto in 1980 and 1982. In 1983 Prof. John Eulenberg hosted a historical meeting at the Artificial Language Laboratory in East Lansing Michigan. The term Augmentative and Alternative Communication was officially adopted and ISAAC (The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication) was born.
The Film Prelude to ISAAC was produced for the ISAAC Connect virtual Conference held in August, 2021, for the purpose of providing documentation regarding the beginnings of our field. This presentation will include a short introduction to this period of AAC history and the showing of the film Prelude to ISAAC.