Monday, October 17, 2016

Word Prediction

     One of the biggest differences I have noticed between my Accent 1000 running LAMP Words for Life and my old communication device is the way I use word prediction. The way I feel about word prediction has also changed.
     On my old device, word prediction was the only time saving feature that I had at my disposal. thought it was the greatest thing when I first got it. Instead of having to type out the entire word I could find it in the prediction list and insert it.
LAMP Words for Life home screen
Spelling Page
     Now that I have a new device with a vocabulary, my opinion has changed quite a lot. The image above shows the home screen for LAMP Words for Life. Pressing each key will take you to another page that has sometimes many different words that you can use. If I am not mistaken, this program has 4,000 of the most commonly used words. Every word can be accessed with three keystrokes or less. Over time you get faster because the motor plan becomes more firmly entrenched. I estimate that about 70% of the words I use are in the program, and I don't have to type them out. With three keystrokes, for example,  I can type "understand." If I spelled it out, it would take eleven keystrokes if you count the space.
     Word prediction is comparatively slower.WFL does have a spelling page for the words that are not in the vocabulary. As I type out a word I have to look back and forth from the keyboard to the word prediction list. This looking back and forth makes it easy for me to loose my focus, and it slows me down.  I now understand that word prediction is slower because you cannot develop a motor plan; as I see it, this is the biggest problem with it. As you type, the words move and change which is not conducive to developing a motor plan.
     I do use word prediction when I have to spell out words, so I'm not saying that it doesn't have its uses. However, because it can be disorienting I don't use it any more than I have to use it. When I compare my typing speed now with my previous device, the difference is like night and day. Core vocabulary is so powerful, and I don't think I will ever use anything else.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Introduction to My Use of AAC

     I have used augmentative and alternative communication(AAC) for several years. I have used various methods: pen and paper, text-to-speech software on a laptop, communication applications on an iPad and a keyboard based communication device. Currently, I am using an Accent made by PRC.  I started using it around the beginning of 2016.
     PRC has many different vocabulary options. When I first started, I was using Word Power. This program is designed for literate individuals who prefer to type. I was using the version with 84 locations. It has a keyboard and many commonly used words. I was impressed with it, and I was able to communicate quickly.
     One day I got an email from PRC. It had a schedule showing LAMP trainings, and I saw that there was one about two hours away from me. You can read more about LAMP here. I plan to discuss it in future posts. I caught a ride with a friend who is a speech-language pathologist, and we went there. On the ride down there she told me that she had told the presenter, John Halloran, about me. She had asked him what vocabulary I should be using, and he suggested LAMP Words for Life. I knew what it was, but I had never used it. To be frank, I was skeptical about his suggestion. I, like most people, looked at it and thought it was complicated. I also came to it with the impression that it was only for children. I didn't believe that it was robust and sophisticated enough to meet my communication needs.
     I sat through the two day LAMP workshop which explained the principle behind it. John also talked to me in private and explained the advantages of the vocabulary. I was attracted to it because of the possibility that I could communicated faster than I was at the time. I thought his arguments were persuasive enough for me to want to give it a serious effort to learn it. I loaded LAMP Words for Life(WFL) on my Accent and went to work learning it.
     Using WFL is like playing the piano. Each word or phrase has a unique movement or series of movements to type it. Over time the movement becomes automatic, which is similar to the way that you can play a Beethoven sonata automatically if you practice it enough. The ability to type automatically is how you can get to be so fast with it.
     I left the LAMP workshop with a word list. I practiced each word over and over again. I pressed all the keys to see what happened. I typed out sentences. Basically, I just spent a lot of time playing around with it. For me, the learning process was fun and valuable per se. It was slow at first like I was slowly walking up a mountain. At some point everything just clicked in my mind and my progress accelerated.
     A little less than two months later, John was doing another LAMP workshop closer to where I live. I was anxious to show him what I had been able to accomplish so far. I wasn't sure about my progress: was it good enough? I was staying in the same hotel as he was, and he met my friend and I in the lobby. When I finally typed something he seemed pleased and surprised that I was able to type so quickly. We all went out to dinner, and we talked and talked. He informed me that it was unusual for someone to become fluent or nearly fluent in about two months time.
     I was reluctant at first, but now I am very glad that I decided to learn WFL. I have never been able to compose messages as quickly as I do now. I think that anyone looking at AAC for themselves, their friends or their child should consider this. The learning curve is steep, but in my opinion it is worth it.
     Please keep an eye on my blog. I would like to go more in depth into the nuances of using AAC, particularly the system that I have just described.
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