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Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

Photos – Beyond Vocabulary

Photos – Beyond Vocabulary
Submitted By Kristin Whitfield, MS, CCC-SLP

Photos are powerful – they help us remember and they help us share memories.  Digital photos take on even greater power when used by an individual with autism to share life experiences. Photos, whether in an informal scrapbook or on a more formal communication book or communication device can really enhance connecting with others.

Many individuals with autism may already use digital images to replace standard symbol sets (e.g., Picture Communication Symbols or PCS) if they require more concrete representations of objects and activities.  But what about engaging the communication partner in fun “hall talk” with a few facts and photos of their favorite movie stars’ or sports team?

To personalize a communication book or device beyond the vocabulary it already contains, we can add photos of our family, friends, pets, classmates and co-workers. To share our stories we can use photo album templates (and even movies) on an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device and bring in an entire visual scene of our house, our favorite hangout spot or that fabulous cruise to Hawaii.  Let’s explore other ways to use digital images and have some fun with photos moving forward!

1. Examples of photo album templates:

A customizable photo album template on the DynaVox V+, Vmax+ and Maestro speech communication devices.

Another example of a customizable photo album template on the DynaVox V+, Vmax+ and Maestro speech communication devices.

2. Increasing social participation with photo albums.

Digital pictures can enhance an AAC user’s social participation by providing visual support of their achievements and interests. Brainstorm ideas for using a photo album to increase social interaction.

  • What pictures would you include? Pictures with rich content rather than just a person allow the communication partner to ask questions about the event, people, actions, etc.
  • What vocabulary would you add? Think of vocabulary that would encourage commenting, asking partner-focused questions and sharing information.

3. Using digital images for personal narratives.

Personal Narratives help us establish and maintain relationships, and share who we are as well as increasing communication and language skills. Digital pictures can give the child with autism the ability to retrieve and communicate about past personal events and share personal stories.

  • Download the Personal Narrative Resources for either children/teens or adults from the DynaVox Implementation Toolkit. Look for the Personal Narratives – Telling My Stories learning path linked from the first page. These resources provide an introduction to personal narratives; assist you in making decisions about what narratives to store and how to do so.

4. Using digital images within Behavioral Support pages.

You may already use low-tech strategies to help individuals manage behaviors. If your child uses a high-tech AAC device, these same strategies can be used on a device pre-programmed with behavioral support page templates. If your child has a DynaVox V+, Vmax+ or Maestro you can explored these templates within the Teaching Tools pages (Setup menu>Page Navigator>Teaching Tools folder) and think about how adding a digital image of the individual, action or environment may enhance the pages even more!  You can also find similar pages on the DynaVox Xpress. Digital images can be used to create:

  • Contingency Maps
  • First-Then charts
  • Visual Rules
  • Checklists and schedules

5. List other practical ideas to use digital images.

We have the list started for you!

  • Use digital images to transfer important instructions to caregivers.
    This will allow the individual to independently communicate preferences for foods, activities, etc.  These pages can be used to manage personal care attendants and unfamiliar communication or care partners.
  • Use stories to teach social skills (Gray, C. 2002-2003) paired with digital images to give visual cues to students with challenging behaviors.

Stories designed to teach social skills help identify the situation in which challenging behaviors are demonstrated (e.g., standing in line) and then offers alternatives to the undesirable behavior. Using the story format provides a non-threatening means to offer examples of more appropriate responses. With digital images, you can provide the student with pictures of themselves participating in a more appropriate manner.

Use digital pictures to allow choices for favorite activities.

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