The case study presented here is one of the first six to be involved in an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) research project led by Professor Siegfried Schubenz. Its aim is to examine new communication forms and approaches with physically severely disabled students.
The intervention strategy that we use is derived from psychologicaleducational therapy (Pädagogisch–Psychologische Therapie; see Schubenz, 1993; Pilz, 1982; Schlösser, 1980). Grounded in activity theory, this therapy integrates psychotherapeutic and educational aspects into a model of ambulant psychosocial intervention.
The AAC medium most widely used in our work is Blissymbolics (Bliss, 1965). This is a picto- and ideographic symbol communication system consisting of 26 basic “symbol elements” (McDonald, 1980, p. 21). These elements are combined according to standardized rules to form terms and can be grammatically arranged into sentences.
In order that the symbols be understood by persons not fluent in Bliss, the meaning of each symbol is also written in traditional orthography (TO) above the symbol. Currently there are about 3,000 standardized Blissymbols worldwide.
In order to communicate with the help of such a nonverbal symbolic communication system (Musselwhite & St. Louis, 1982), or aided system (Lloyd, 1985; Lloyd, Quist, & Windsor, 1990), not only the meaning of the symbols but also ways to produce them have to be learned. If writing or drawing are out of the question, some form of indicating or coding strategy becomes necessary as a substitute, using the remaining range of voluntary movements.