Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #385
CE Offered: BACB
Augmentative and Alternative Communication User Experiences and Advances Leveraging Artificial Intelligence
Monday, May 27, 2024
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon F
Area: EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Elizabeth R. Lorah (University of Arkansas)
CE Instructor: Elizabeth R. Lorah, Ph.D.

Millions of individuals experience communication needs that necessitate the use of an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) system; yet advances in AAC have not kept up with the technological innovations experienced by mainstream communities. Moreover, many AAC users indicate their communication device does not adequately meet their communication needs, evident through both self-report and device abandonment. Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have the potential to offer solutions to the barriers AAC users and stakeholders experience. This symposium will include three distinct presentations on the a) limitations of existing AAC as reported by end users and stakeholders; b) the use of AAC and games to foster social engagement with an AI enabled AAC Game Prototype and c) data from the implementation of low-fidelity prototypes to improve the communication of preschool aged children with autism, during social play routines. Finally, a discussion on how we can leverage the state of the art in AI to improve AAC systems will conclude the session.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): AAC, Artificial Intelligence
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: 1. Identify barriers to use of current Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems 2. Identify ways in which gamification could be used for instruction with Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems 3. Identify how to incorporate Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems into play routines.

Human Centered Design - Spurring the Next Generation of Augmentative and Alternative Communication

ELIZABETH R. LORAH (University of Arkansas), Nicolette Sammarco Caldwell (The University of Arkansas), Christine Holyfield (University of Arkansas ), Stephen MacNeil (Temple University), Slobodan Vucetic (Temple University ), Eduard Dragut (Temple University )

The incorporation of technological innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) for use with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) present an enormous potential for the future of AAC design. However, there are numerous examples where AI technology that was designed without considering key stakeholders actually exacerbated problems rather than fixing them. While newer technological innovations such as AI should be included in the future of AAC historically stakeholder and end users. While developers do occasionally incorporate usability testing into their design process, this is described as occurring “too little, too late” within the design sequence. In an effort to include such input from AAC users and stakeholders from the outset, researchers interviewed 90-end users and stakeholders regarding a) their current AAC engagement; b) the barriers they experience in using AAC; c) what dreams they had regarding future AAC development; and d) reflections on AAC innovations. To analyze these data a Rapid Research Evaluation and Appraisal was used. Within this presentation the themes that emerged and their implications for future AAC development will be discussed.


Exploring the Use of Gamification With Artificial Intelligence and Augmentative and Alternative Communication Applications

ELIZABETH GARRISON (Temple University), Slobodan Vucetic (Temple University), Stephen MacNeil (Temple University), Christine Holyfield (University of Arkansas ), Elizabeth R. Lorah (University of Arkansas)

The implementation of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) presents several challenges. Caregivers often struggle with transitioning AAC skills learned during therapy into daily routines, and AAC users often face social barriers, with vocal peers avoiding interactions due to AAC stigmatization. In our exploration of AAC application usage, an analysis of 3,584 reviews from 92 apps on Google Play and Apple Store revealed a key finding: AAC apps primarily cater to communication skills, whereas game applications focus solely on educational and social skills development, indicating an absence of integrated AAC and game tools for increasing social engagement. To gather further information regarding the use of AAC and games to foster social engagement, we interviewed AAC users, clinicians, and caregivers to gain their perspectives on an AI enabled AAC Game Prototype. Finally, we tested a Wizard of Oz prototype of an AI-enabled AAC-integrated coloring game with three participants. This presentation will share the results of our user-centered design method and discuss the future inclusion of single subject research experiments within UX research.


Context Aware Augmentative and Alternative Communication to Increase Social Participation

Nicolette Caldwell (The University of Arkansas), MADISON MADDOX (University of Arkansas), Christine Holyfield (University of Arkansas ), Elizabeth R. Lorah (University of Arkansas), Stephen MacNeil (Temple University )

The use of effective strategies and technologies to support the social participation of young, beginning communicators within the context of meaningful social routines is critical. However, social participation for beginning communicators on the autism spectrum is often restricted. This is due in part to the time and effort required for both children and partners to use traditional augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies (grids or visual scene displays) during engaging social play routines. Innovations in artificial intelligence provide the potential for AAC technologies to use linguistic input from partners (i.e., context aware AAC), to minimize the time and effort needed to use AAC technologies for social play participation; however, this potential has been largely unharnessed to date. This preliminary study used an alternating treatment design to compare the effects of a context-aware AAC prototype with automated photo choices to traditional grid-based AAC for supporting three young children who were beginning communicators on the autism spectrum in directing play within preferred social play routines. The context aware AAC condition resulted in increases in linguistic play directives and vocal approximations, and decreases in refusal behaviors in all three participants. While this study was only an initial exploration and results are preliminary, context aware AAC technologies have the potential to enhance participation and communication outcomes for young beginning communicators on the autism spectrum and more research is greatly needed in this area.




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