LAMP (Language Acquisition through Motor Planning) is an Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) programme designed specifically for autism. It is an approach developed by Cindy and John Halloran and is very new to the UK (for up to date information on UK workshops etc see here). There’s a lot of information on the website and if you are interested it is well worth taking the time to have a browse.
Most methods of AAC using high tech devices (and low tech come to that) rely on categorising words and symbols. So the AAC user goes to a cooking lesson and has their ‘cooking’ page of useful symbols. These are not usually selected by the AAC user, but instead by the teacher, and if they want to say something not on the page, well they can flick through their book if it is there. Next they have snack time, and so have their ‘snack’ page of symbols. This might include some symbols that were found in the cooking page, but these same symbols are likely to be in different positions. To select an appropriate symbol the user has to be able to scan many symbols, and often has to select appropriate categories as well.
This first video shows Archie using such a method on the iPad.
As can be seen this is pretty slow and his idea of where symbols might be is potentially different from ours. This makes communication very slow, which for someone who is a communicative as Archie can be very frustrating to the point where he rarely bothered.
This next clip shows what Archie is able to achieve with people who understand some of what he says. Okay, the topics he can talk about are pretty limited, but the back and forth communication is fast.
This is where LAMP has been so beneficial to Archie. It doesn’t use categories to navigate to words. Instead the child (or adult) learns a set motor patter (i.e. sequence of pushes) to produce each word. And this never changes. So sugar is always in the same place, whether Archie needs to find it in a cooking lesson, during snack time, or at home. This makes producing words a relatively fast process. It’s far faster than searching through categories and with a high tech device the user can potentially have access to thousands of words.
Archie picked the method up pretty quickly. These first three videos were taken during his second session with a borrowed talker during his three week trial period.
By the time the three week trial finished he was able to quickly find about twenty words. He then had a break of a number of weeks before Cindy Halloran spent a morning with him. During this session the number of symbols on the talker screen was increased from 60 to 84 (giving him access to a potential vocabulary of thousands of words), and despite the number of weeks that he had been without a talker he was still keen to use the device during the session and confident at exploring new vocabulary.
For Archie, LAMP has pressed his buttons so to speak. He’s taken to it with pleasure and is keen to communicate using the talker. The devices that LAMP can be used with are not cheap (Archie uses a Vantage Lite which costs just short of £6000). Gradually, I hope to explore potential methods of funding such a device through this website. This is just one child’s story but will hopefully provide an idea of what can be achieved with some technology and a clever method.