Getting to word prediction: Developmental literacy and
Below is a paper entitled, "Getting to word prediction: Developmental literacy and
AAC," by Yvonne Gillette and Jeri Lynn Hoffman. It is reprinted with permission of
REFERENCES: Gillette, Y., & Hoffman, J.L. (1995,
March). Getting to word prediction: Developmental literacy and AAC. In Proceedings of the
Tenth Annual International Conference, Technology and Persons with Disabilities, Center on
Disabilities, California State University, Northridge.
PRODUCTS: EZ Keys (Words +); Scanning WSKE (Words +);
HandiWORD (Microsystems Software); Speaking Dynamically (Mayer-Johnston Co.); Co:Writer®
(Don Johnston Developmental Equipment); Write Out:Loud (Don Johnston Developmental
Equipment); Routine Talk (Innocomp); Logical Language (Innocomp)
Yvonne Gillette, The University of Akron, School of Communicative Disorders, Akron, OH
443253001, 2169726115, YGILLETTE@UAKRON.EDU
Jeri Lynn Hoffman, Innocomp, 26210 Emery Rd., Suite 302, Warrensville Heights, OH 44128,
This paper is comprised of four components:
Many AAC/written language programs are based upon the principle of word prediction
EZ-Keys, Scanning WSKE, HandiWord, the keyboard portion of Speaking Dynamically, and the
Co:Writer, Write:OutLoud combination are examples. A significant number of literacy skills
are essential before a user can be expected to be successful with word prediction. Initial
experience in augmentative/alternative(AAC) and/or literacy can be scaffolded to
facilitate the necessary skills.
Routine Talk (a pictureword access program) and Logical Language (a categoryletter
program) are a sequence of AAC programs that provide the necessary progression. Both
programs are designed to run on the Innocomp dedicated AAC devices and are packaged with
the necessary overlays, manuals, and prestored messages. When AAC is not required,
however, a similar sequence can be followed to lead to success with word prediction and
other literacy skills. This paper will explain this progression, including the features of
word prediction. It will also offer three criteria against which prescriptions for AAC
devices/programs, as well as school program plans, can be measured in terms of their
ability to provide scaffolding toward literacy skills.
Word prediction is a feature built into some word processors to facilitate speed of word
or message selection. The user types a letter, and the program offers a choice of words,
each beginning with that letter. When another letter in the word is selected, another
choice of words is offered to the user. When the program zeros in on the word the user
wants to enter in the text line, the user can select it by number. For example, the user
may want to type "where". By typing "w" the user may see
"want", "will", "word", "while", and
"what". Then, by adding an "h" to the existing "w", the user
may see, "what", "where", "who", "why", and
"whether". By typing the number 2, the user will place the word
"where" on the line of type with three keystrokes, often followed with an
The word prediction feature can save effort on the part of a person with a severe physical
disability. In addition, it can provide cues for spelling words correctly for individuals
who have not yet achieved good skill in spelling. It could remind a user to place the
"e" at the end of "where", for example. A word prediction program can
prompt users in several ways. First, it provides cues for words which it predicts may come
next. When the word prediction program includes vocal output, some of the programs will
speak the words in the prediction list if you select them with a mouse click, for example.
In this way, the user can hear the word list to determine if that is the desired word
Second, it provides a cue for incorrect spelling when no words appear in the list or none
of the words which do appear match the user's needs. Also, when early writers need ideas,
the word prediction list offers suggestions of words to use in writing. It facilitates
ideation, which in Juel's Simple View (1988), is the generation and organization of ideas
considered to be a major component of writing skill.
Word prediction clearly provides assistive technology for both written communication and
augmentative communication, and it is used in both contexts. However, users with first
letter of the word spelling skill use word prediction most successfully. While many
potential writers or augmentative communicators have this skill many do not. When they do
not, potential users of word prediction programs are often placed in programs to develop
necessary literacy skills.
Getting to Word Prediction
Speaking, listening, protoreading, and protowriting provide this background; however, such
experience is limited for many potential users, such as those with physical, cognitive or
severe speech disabilities (Koppenhaver, Coleman, Kalman, & Yoder, 1991). Some of
these skills include an understanding of the purpose of message sending in daily routines,
the organization of messages in daily routines or stories, and the link between spoken
messages and print (VanKleeck 1990). Prescriptions for AAC devices/programs as well as
school program plans, can be matched against these three criteria to determine if the
prescription/plan provides this scaffolding toward literacy.
1) Does the method for selecting messages to be taught allow for organized participation
in daily routines?
2) Does the message encoding system have a direct and obvious link to print skills?
3) Does the device, computer program, or method of instruction offer texttospeech
The following discussion will provide the reader with background information on each
criteria and potential solutions to meet the criteria for AAC users, potential writers, or
Criteria 1: Does the method for selecting messages to be taught allow for organized
participation in daily routines?
One way literacy skills emerge in the student is through exposure to pictures combined
with words in books and in the environment. Another is through exposure to others using
literacy to place phone calls, write notes, and otherwise engage in their daily lives
(Koppenhaver et al.,1991; VanKleeck, 1990).
Routine Talk (Innocomp), an AAC message system retrieves messages by using picture/word
access. The method of configuring messages on the overlays also provides the user with
experience in story organization or grammar (Stein & Glenn, 1979). The components of a
story grammar include the setting, the initiating event, participation events, and an
ending. Routine Talk messages are organized within daily life routines (eating, dressing,
play, etc.) which parallel the settings. The 25 overlays each include messages to initiate
the routine, participate in it, and end it. The message organization and the picture/word
access to messages provide the user with a link between daily life and functional
A similar strategy can be followed when selecting messages to be presented without AAC
technology. Teachers, families, and other facilitators can combine pictures with print to
select and organize messages so the student has the ability to begin a routine as well as
to participate in it and end it.
Criteria 2: Does the message encoding system have a direct and obvious link to
Several scholars and at least one consumer of AAC have raised concerns about the frequent
discrepancy between symbolic encoding skills needed for AAC and conventional literacy
skills (Beukelman, 1991, Light & Lindsay, 1991, and Beatty, 1992). The concern appears
to be the competition between learning time spent on learning an AAC encoding system for
communication and the graphic literacy skills necessary to read and write language. The
solution is an AAC encoding system that incorporates traditional literacy symbols.
In AAC message retrieval systems, category/letter encoding systems provide a means for
developing literacy sldlls. In using such a system, the user first selects the category to
which the message belongs, then types the first (and sometimes second) letter of the word
to be retrieved. Logical Language (Innocomp) produces messages by combining a category
keystroke with picture/letter selections related to messages within the category. For
example words about home (bedroom, family, and door) are retrieved under the same category
(h) home. Ties between communication about life experience and literacy skills are
strengthened with such an approach. Logical Language presents its message production
system in two levels, scaffolding the literacy experience to include the more abstract
literacy skills as the user develops skills at message production.
The first level uses category pictures combined with picture/letter combinations of
individual messages to facilitate retrieval. Each of 26 categories has a separate overlay,
so the user can be guided by the category picture as well as picture/letter cues to
retrieve the message itself. For example, the message "horse" is retrieved by
pressing the "animal" key for the category of the message, and the
picture/letter "horse/h" to access the message, "horse".
At the second level, only categoryletter encoding is used. A single overlay provides the
user with a visual aid to recall the organization of all the messages, but the first
letter of the word must be recalled since only category and letter cues are provided. The
"horse" message is still retrieved with the "animal" category key;
however, the "h" letter is the second key. The horse picture is no longer
visible because the combined overlay has the picture which signals the category
"house". This more advanced level parallels the scaffold seen in the literacy
experience of many early readers who begin by recognizing words with the aid of pictures,
then rely more and more heavily on print alone.
Both levels of Logical Language also allow for visible print combined with vocal output to
access grammatical refinements, such as access to pronouns, common verbs, and plurals.
With a vocal output device, pressing the key can allow the child to reveal the spoken word
under the printed key another exploratory literacy experience.
Teachers and families can use these principles to structure the early literacy experiences
of students who do not require augmentative communication. Provide messages within
routines or categories, use standard print combined with pictures as the encoding system
at first, then gradually increase the need to access through print alone. More
sophisticated messages can be developed by the students by providing access to grammatical
refinement through word lists. Instructors can parallel the verbal feedback the device
provides by giving the student verbal feedback when the student produces the first letter
of the word. This can be done through onetoone instruction, or by selection of the
appropriate computer technology. Dyson (1986) suggests that typical literacy skills
develop through a similar picture/print sequence as students learn that they can draw
Criteria 3: Does the deuce, computer program, or method of instruction offer
Dedicated communication devices or computerbased programs with text to speech capabilities
are ideal technology for teaching the student the relationship between print and spoken
language. Students who will benefit from this type of instruction, know the purpose of
sending messages and have a notion about how messages are encoded in graphic forms. They
may lack sophisticated skills to produce written messages or verbal messages (in the case
of AAC users) in standard orthography, however.
Text to speech devices can provide this experience, as can teachers or families who
provide feedback about what a written word "says" (Chomsky, 1979). With
technology, notes can be given to the user, who then copies the note or words in the note
to hear the device/program speak the message the note sent. Similar experiences can be set
up with recipes, television guides, dictionaries, maps, newspapers, magazines, labels on
food or other items, books, comic books, catalogs, and greeting cards, to name a few. When
no technology is available, the instructor becomes the tool for translating text to
speech. However, this method of translation may not encourage the same independence in
message production and translation.
Word prediction is a tool within the scaffold toward literacy and sophisticated
augmentative communication. The student who is able to access messages by categoryletter
coding is in a position to learn to use word prediction combined with keyboarding to
communicate in speech and writing. Learning costs of the AAC system are minimized because
the same cognitive process is involved in retrieving verbal and written output. In some
cases, the same device ( a computer) is used for verbal and written output as well
minimizing equipment costs. In addition, the use of a computer for verbal output
facilitates inclusion because the device is a part of the typical environment. Several
products EZ Keys, HandiWord, and the Co:writer/Write Outloud combination are available for
word prediction. These word prediction products are options only for students who have had
the foundation in literacy. AAC products such as the Routine TalkLogical Language provide
a systematic scaffold; a similar scaffold can be constructed for students who do not need
Beatty, H. (1992). Icons and the literate adult. Communication Outlook 13 (3), 89.
Beukelman, D.R. (1991). Magic and the cost of communicative competence. Augmentative and
Alternative Communication, 7, 210.
Chomsky, C. (1979). Approaching reading through invented spelling. In L B. Resnick and
P.A. Weaver (Eds.) Theory and Practice of Early Reading, Vol. 2. Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.
Dyson, A. (1986). Transitions and tensions: Interrelationships between drawing, talking,
and dictating of young children. Research in the Teaching of English, 20, 524.
Juel, C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from
first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 4, 437447.
Koppenhaver, DA, Coleman, P.P., Kalman, S.L., Yoder, D.E. (1991). The implications of
emergent literacy research for children with developmental disabilities. American Journal
of SpeechLanguage Pathology, 1 (1), 3844.
Light, J. & Lindsay, P. (1991). Cognitive science and augmentative and alternative
communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 7, 186203.
Stein, N. & Glenn, C. (1979). An analysis for story comprehension in elementary
school. In R. Freedle (Ed.) New directions in discourse processing ,Vol. 2. Norwood, NJ:
VanKleeck, A. (1990). Emergent literacy: Learning about print before learning to read.
Topics in Language Disorders, 10(2), 2445.
Handiword, Microsystems, 1-800-828-2600
EZ Keys, Scanning WSKE, Words+, 1-800-869-8521
Speaking Dynamically, Mayer Johnson, 619-550-4084
CoWriter, Don Johnston, Inc., 1-800-999-4660
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