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DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is the leading provider of communication solutions and educational tools designed to help children with communication challenges and learning difficulties. These tools can help children with autism communicate with their families at home, actively participate in the classroom and have the ability to gain meaningful employment as adults.

Copyright © 2013 DynaVox Systems LLC. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2011 DynaVox Systems LLC. All rights reserved.

We can help At DynaVox Mayer-Johnson, we strive to improve communication and interaction for children with autism by providing them with the tools to speak their minds and reach their fullest potential.

We support children with autism by providing the tools that address several key areas of need:









DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is the leading provider of communication solutions and educational tools designed to help children with communication challenges and learning difficulties. These tools can help children with autism communicate with their families at home, actively participate in the classroom and have the ability to gain meaningful employment as adults.




Autism and communication What is communication?

What is self expression?

Communication is the process by which one person gives information to or receives information from another person. It is through communication that children express their thoughts and ideas, learn new things and build relationships with others. Communication can be spoken, but it can also take on other forms such as sign language, writing or using a common set of symbols1. Communication can also be in the form of facial expressions, behavior, body language, or through the use of a communication device.

Communication is also about expressing who you really are as a person. It’s about expressing your individuality and having the ability to show people your unique personality, beliefs, feelings and ideas. Expression is a creative act that gives each of us a voice— defines our unique self to those around us.

communication is

communication is

sign language


True expression requires the right tools at the right time in order to be successful. For many children with autism, self expression and social connections with others can be challenging for both the child and their loved ones. Symptoms range from very mild to severe. Possible signs and symptoms of these challenges may include: •

Limited or lack of verbal speech

Difficulty expressing needs and wants

Echolalia (Repeating a word or phrase that has been previously heard)

Loss of words that the child was previously able to say

Inability to identify objects (poor vocabulary development)

Difficulty answering questions

Limited attention to people and objects in the environment

Poor response to verbal instructions

“Self expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.” Pearl S. Buck

communication is


communication is a

communication is




Beukelman and Mirenda, 2005


What is augmentative and alternative communication? Finding a solution Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) can include any strategy used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. Examples of common AAC strategies might include:


sign language

picture communication boards


communication devices

7:30 AM TO 8:00 AM

Many AAC strategies use picture symbols, letters, words and phrases to represent the messages needed to talk about objects, people and places. Children with communication challenges can use AAC to supplement their existing speech or replace speech that is not functional.

AAC for real-life interaction AAC can be used all day long in any environment where communication is difficult. AAC not only helps the child communicate their messages, but also gives them visual information that can increase their understanding of the situation. For example, showing a child a communication page with pictures of clothing items might help them better understand the process of getting dressed and allow them to actively participate in the activity (e.g. make choices, comment, etc.). While the child may have multiple ways to communicate their needs and wants, having access to an AAC device will allow them to expand their thoughts and learn new words along the way.

get dressed at school 9:45 AM TO 10:45 AM circle time 10:45 AM TO 11:00 AM snack 11:00 AM TO 12:00 PM math 9:15 AM TO 9:45 AM arrive

AFTERNOON 1:00 PM TO 2:00 PM reading 2:00 PM TO 3:00 PM art 4:00 PM TO 5:00 PM play

EVENING 5:00 PM TO 5:45 PM eat

AAC gives children the visual information that can increase their understanding in any situation.

Child user: clothing


dinner a bath

7:00 PM TO 7:30 PM take



Who can use AAC? Any child with limited speech Any child who is nonverbal or who has difficulty communicating in all situations can benefit from the use of an AAC device. Children who do not have the ability to communicate can potentially fall behind in developing their language and literacy skills. With AAC devices, children can: •

Children with Autism Understand environment or activity-specific language.

Develop expressive and receptive language skills. Use more appropriate communication methods and find more opportunities to participate. Actively engage in the communication process. Communicate more complex concepts than their existing skills would allow.

AAC devices are often considered when children do not develop speech in the traditional way or experience significant delay in their communication development. It is never too early or too late to start using AAC devices, as they can give a voice to children with autism and provide them with the tools they need to communicate with the world around them.

We know that children with autism often possess many strengths that allow them to be successful users of symbol and text-based communication systems.2

AAC Devices Can... Manage a large amount of activity-specific vocabulary to support communication in the home, school and community.

Children with Autism Understand better when they see something versus just hearing it.

Children with Autism Think in a visual way and recall visual images and memories easily.

AAC Devices Can... Clarify concepts in a concrete and visual way when there are difficulties with auditory comprehension.

AAC Devices Can... Present language in a consistent, relevant and visual manner.



Why should AAC be used to support children with autism? To enhance communication The primary reason for using AAC devices with children with autism is to enhance communication, not to replace or inhibit the existing communication skills. Most AAC device users continue to use their existing communication skills (e.g., verbalizations, facial expressions, gestures, etc.) in addition to the device. AAC devices benefit children with autism because they can help them express themselves, increase social interaction with others, support academic performance, and enhance feelings of selfworth. AAC intervention strives to determine the communication, behavioral and social needs of the child, identify the child’s strengths and match those strengths to possible AAC solutions.

To support learning and participation While there are many choices available regarding AAC devices, it is important to consider all of the things that make an AAC device appropriate for a child with autism.

For children with autism, an AAC device should: Increase participation in the classroom, community and home. Address IEP and personal goals. Support timely and interactive communication. Provide meaningful messages to the communication partners (e.g., sibling, teacher, parent, etc.). Support language and literacy learning through a robust and structured language framework. Encourage successful day-to-day interaction.

SAM USES the MAESTRO TO QUICKLY CHOOSE HIS FAVORITE SNACK Sam is 4 years old and has a diagnosis of autism. He loves airplanes, books and spends a lot of time playing outside. Sam used to grab his mother’s hand and pull her to the kitchen when he wanted a snack. He would sometimes cry and demonstrate self- abusive behaviors when he was unable to communicate his choice. Since there were so many choices, Sam’s mother would begin naming all of the items, one at a time and wait for Sam to respond. This process was quite frustrating for both Sam and his mother and would often result in a complete meltdown. Now, Sam feels less frustrated when he uses the Maestro to quickly choose his favorite snack, share his thoughts and talk about the day’s events with his mom.

Be appropriate for the child’s age and communication ability level. Provide positive behavioral supports.

Snack Table


Snack Choices


solutions What solutions are available to help improve communication skills? AAC devices such as the Maestro and Xpress are designed to meet the broad range of needs for individuals with autism. DynaVox has combined research with powerful technology to create the most complete language framework available on AAC devices today, InterAACt. It is the exclusive language framework used on all DynaVox products and can be used to encourage language and literacy development, social interaction and participation in the school, home and community settings.


Integrated infrared capabilities allow users to control common household appliances, such as televisions and DVD players, as well as thermostats and lamps equipped with infrared remote controls or X-10 controllers.

A little bit about our devices

Maestro: •

Sleek and stylish, the Maestro weighs just 2.75 pounds (slim battery). The integrated camera allows you to capture memories as they happen, and instantly add them to new and existing communication pages. Available with two battery configurations to meet your needs. Standard battery lasts for 9.5 hours. Supports a wide-range of selection methods, including touch, joystick, Morse code eye tracking (when used with the EyeMax) and mouse pause. Integrated infrared capabilities allow users to control common household appliances such as televisions and DVD players, as well as thermostats and lamps equipped with infrared remote controls or X-10 controllers.

kristie uses picture symbols on an xpress to expand her thoughts. Kristie is 15 years old. She can speak several words, but only says one word at a time and is not able to put words together to communicate more complete thoughts. Kristie seems to understand a lot of what is going on around her, but is not able to communicate what she is thinking. She is starting to read and understand 2-3 word simple sentences. Although Kristie is able to read some words, she needs to use the picture symbols on an Xpress to expand her thoughts where her current language skills would not allow. Kristie’s literacy skills have increased because she has access to keyboards, core words and word lists. She is also starting to interact more with

Xpress: •

This small, ultra-portable device features a 5” diagonal screen that can be easily navigated by “swiping” the screen with your fingers or thumbs. Natural-sounding voices provide inflection and emphasis, and allow you to laugh, cry, shout and whisper.

Available with two battery configurations to meet your needs:

Two 3.5-hour swappable batteries

One eight-hour extended battery

her peers using the teen social vocabulary.

Stay connected using the onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities.


Mall Talk



The InterAACt Language Framework Structured yet flexible Language is the foundation of communication and expression. In order to be truly useful and meaningful, language must have a framework and structure. It must be more than a random collection of words and phrases. It must be appropriate for the communicator, meaningful to the recipient and relevant to the environment within which the communication is occurring. It is because of this principle that DynaVox created the InterAACt language framework.

Efficient and precise Say it quickly and say it in your own words. InterAACt provides the words and messages children need in order to keep up with the classroom curriculum. Gateway 40

Real-life communication Individuals can communicate right away in any situation. Going to a fast food restaurant

Xpress word lists

Familiar and natural Choosing a place to go

InterAACt presents language in a familiar format using real words for everyday environments.

Flexible Communication needs are met both now and later. With InterAACt, children can learn how to use new words everyday. As language and literacy grows, the DynaVox will grow with them. My words

Saying goodnight to mom and dad





Communication ability levels InterAACt meets the needs of children with autism by providing the messages needed to say what they want, how they want and when they want! InterAACt will also support language and literacy growth and strives to provide the appropriate vocabulary needed for successful interaction for children of all ages and abilities, including children who are:



An Emergent Communicator:

Uses his Maestro to help him feel more comfortable in new situations Glen has a difficult time in unfamiliar situations and becomes very anxious in new environments. His mother uses Gary’s Maestro prior to the event to show him what to expect so that he can prepare and hopefully feel more comfortable.

Benefits from the support of communication partners (eg., parents, teachers, siblings, etc.). Is beginning to use simple and concrete symbols. (e.g., dog, cookie, etc.). Communicates best in familiar or motivating activities.

Context-Dependent A Context-Dependent Communicator: •

Uses symbols spontaneously to communicate basic needs and wants, and is starting to understand more abstract symbols (e.g., hot, beautiful, etc.). Is beginning to combine two or more symbols to express more unique ideas. Is beginning to develop basic literacy skills (e.g., letter names and sounds).

Independent An Independent Communicator: •

Has literacy skills that are on par with same-age peers. Is able to talk about a broad range of age-appropriate topics in flexible ways. Combines single words, spelling, phrases and complete sentences to create routine and unique messages.

Michael Is beginning to combine two or more symbols to express more unique ideas. Michael loves animals. With the Maestro, he can enjoy a day at the zoo with his family and talk about his favorite animals. He can even take pictures with his device and use them to tell his teachers and friends at school all about his day.

A child with autism may begin at the emergent level, but as they grow and develop their communication skills, they can easily transition to the next level. The tools and communication pages needed to support higher-level literacy and language are always available within InterAACt. Each page set builds on previous experiences to support higher-level language and communication skills.

To download the InterAACt framework guide and review a complete list of characteristics for each communication ability level, go to interaact

Jessica Uses her Xpress to discuss daily tasks. Jessica takes pride her work. She uses her Xpress to type messages when talking with her job coach as they discuss the tasks for the day.


InterAACt and positive behavior supports Supporting positive behavior Behavior is a form of communication. For children with autism, behavior may be the only means by which they have to communicate a need or frustration. Research tells us that individuals with autism will communicate using the “most effective and efficient means possible.�3

Using Stories to Teach Social Skills is a way to help children with autism understand difficult social information. By presenting this social information in a way that is easy for children to understand, it is hoped that they will better comprehend both the situation and expectations. While the goal is not to change behavior, improved understanding can certainly result in positive behavior changes.

Visual supports have been found to be very beneficial for children with autism and can be used throughout the day to provide information about changes that may occur or what to expect in a particular situation. This not only prepares the child for change, but also provides them with the tools necessary to communicate in those situations. Sometimes, the use of visual supports will decrease challenging behaviors because the child can better understand transitions, changes in the environment and the expectations that have been set for them.

Real-life examples of positive behavior supports Schedules and Calendars can be used on the communication device to present the abstract concept of time in a concrete, visual form and present events/activities in the order in which they will take place. The purpose of a schedule or calendar is to help children organize their lives and understand sequence and time. Children can use schedules and calendars to talk about past or future events with others.

Visual Rules are a visual depiction of what is expected in an environment or activity. Visual rules may also depict what will happen if that expectation is not met. The purpose of a visual rule is to support positive and appropriate behavior by providing clear and concrete representation of the expectations.



Mirenda (2005)


InterAACt and social interaction Supporting social participation Communicating during social situations may be challenging for children with autism because they may have a difficult time interacting with communication partners or may appear to have little or no interest in making friends. Sometimes they just might not know what to say or do.


Quickfires provide access to messages that can be used to get someone’s attention (e.g., Hey Dad!), make a comment (e.g., all done, yuck) or make a request (e.g., more, wait). These quick messages are available from any page in the system because they can be used in any situation.

DynaVox communication devices offer access to vocabulary and strategies that support social participation in school and community settings. These tools encourage and support social skills development by giving children with autism the words and pre-programmed scripts they need to interact in an appropriate social manner.

Real-life examples of social interaction supports Digital Photographs can be imported into the device to support conversations about a motivating event or topic. With digital photographs, children with autism can share their stories and have access to pictures that are meaningful to them.

Topic Messages take advantage of pre-programmed words, phrases and questions related to everyday situations or environments (e.g., riding in the car, playing outside, reading class, pets, etc.). For example, topic messages related to pets might include “I want to feed him.”, “I think he needs to go out.”, “Gross!” or “Can I take her for a walk.”


InterAACt and education How can InterAACt be used in the classroom? During a typical school day, children spend time in the classroom, on the playground, in the cafeteria, etc. It is important to provide the necessary communication tools so that they can participate to the fullest extent possible. InterAACt provides the vocabulary to promote functional communication, language and literacy skills development related to school-specific activities. The ultimate goal is to increase classroom participation and learning.

Reading •

Reading material can easily be added to the device, and with the device’s speech synthesizer, the text can be read outloud. You can also add symbols to the text to support beginning readers. InterAAct also provides the words needed to particpate in reading activities.

• • •

Calendar time Reading

Snack time •

Snack is a great time to teach choice making and social skills.

• Snack


• •

Real-life examples of communication for learning Calendar Time •

Allows children to participate in songs, stories, learning about the calendar and weather during group activities.

Math •

• • •


Simple and scientific calculators, numbers, money, addition, subtraction and multiplication practice pages are all available.


autism Art

News for Home/News for School •

Art vocabulary allows students to request supplies, choose colors and comment to friends.

News pages allow children with autism to share information about their day with others.

• • • • •

Mayer-Johnson The Boardmaker Software Family provides the necessary tools to download or create print materials and interactive activities to support the classroom curriculum.

With Boardmaker Studio, you can: •

Create 1,000s of activities with pre-made templates and instantly connect with users on

With Boardmaker, you can: •

Create valuable printed materials like communication boards, sequences and schedules.

With Boardmaker Plus, you can: •

Transform your print materials with sound, animation and video.

elizabeth uses a variety of communication and learning tools. Elizabeth uses an Xpress to supplement her current communication skills. In the classroom, she uses Boardmaker Studio and its included Picture Communication Symbols to access her daily schedule, practice matching activities and test her vocabulary.


Common Questions About Using AAC Devices With People With Autism

Will a communication device impede my child’s natural ability to speak?

How are communication devices funded?

Extensive research has proven that AAC can benefit children by enhancing their communication and supporting the development of language and literacy skills. In many cases, AAC may, in fact, facilitate the production of speech (Millar, Light & Schlosser, 2006). With AAC, children are engaged in the process of learning as they receive visual and auditory feedback and reinforcement from the device. Voice output has been found to have a positive impact on literacy skills, question response, comment sharing, object labeling and requesting (Beukelman & Mirenda, 2005).

In most states, devices are paid for by one of several funding sources. These sources include Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. Some nonprofit organizations also work to provide communication devices for those who do not qualify for or do not have access to other funding sources. Since funding varies in each state, DynaVox can help you with the funding process by assigning a funding specialist who is knowledgeable about your state’s specific funding requirements. Your funding specialist will assist you in preparing and submitting the required paperwork to acquire an AAC device for your child.

How do I know if AAC is the right choice for my child?

What will happen if the communication device gets broken?

If your child’s speech and language skills are not developing normally, then they may be a candidate for AAC. Please note that introducing AAC DOES NOT mean that you are giving up on speech. This is a common misperception. Remember, the goal of AAC is to enhance communication, not to replace or inhibit the existing communication skills of the child. For more information on typical speech and language development, please visit:

How do I choose the most appropriate communication device? A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) should perform an evaluation to determine if an AAC device is appropriate. The evaluation will assess and compare different devices to determine which one will allow your child to achieve the highest level of communication success. Most school districts and private speech and language clinics either employ SLPs or can refer you to a qualified SLP in your area.



Every DynaVox device includes a one-year, all-inclusive DynaCare Certified Unlimited Guarantee™. It provides coverage, free-ofcharge, for repair or replacement of parts, labor, and return shipping on: •

All hardware repairs to the base unit

Memory card (where applicable)

Battery (one year from the date of shipment)

Extended service contracts are also available on a year-by-year basis, or in multi-year packages.



Our Commitment Our commitment to children with autism and their families We are committed to helping children with autism make meaningful connections with the world around them and giving parents and caregivers the tools they need to support this endeavor. DynaVox Mayer-Johnson offers a network of professionals who are experts in the field of AAC and special education. We will support you through the entire process, from assessment to implementation. At DynaVox, we offer: •

Visit Us Online Our website is designed to help guide you through your search for communication solutions. Visit and to learn more about our products, resources and available services.

A technical support team (phone or online) to answer your questions. A team of funding specialists who are familiar with your state to help you navigate the funding process. A local consultant to provide hands-on demonstrations and ensure that the SLP has the equipment necessary to complete an AAC evaluation. Many local and online training opportunities and implementation resources. Simple and easy to use lesson plans and training materials.

Our commitment to SLPs, teachers and other professionals Our goal is to provide the tools you need so support children with autism. We honor your commitment to helping each individual that you serve communicate to his or her fullest potential, and want to help you work effectively and efficiently toward that goal. DynaVox provides SLPs and other professionals with the following resources: •

Funding specialists to help streamline the assessment and funding process. Local consultants to provide hands-on demonstrations and offer support during evaluations.

Evaluation equipment to complete the AAC assessments.

Local and online trainings.

Implementation resources in the form of therapy lesson plans, instructional videos, data collection forms and planning worksheets.

DynaVox can help you with the funding process by assigning a funding specialist who is knowledgeable about your state’s specific funding requirements.


solutions 15


Autism Speaks


Autism Society of America (ASA)

Autism Community

Boardmaker Share

Additional Resources:

Implementation Toolkit training/toolkit/

References: Beukelman, D & Mirenda. P. (2005). Augmentative and alternative communication: Support for children and adults with complex communication needs. Baltimore MD: Paul Brookes Publishing Co. Cafiero, J. M. (2008). Your child with autism: when is augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) an appropriate option? Exceptional Parent April 1, 2008. Accessed at on 11/19/2008. Cafiero, J., Acheson, J., & Zins, J. (2007) Autism spectrum disorders and augmentative and alternative communication: from research to practice. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Division 12 Millar, D., Light, J., and Schlosser, R. (2006). The impact of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Intervention on the Speech Production of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: A Research Review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 248-264.

connect with us All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of DynaVox Systems LLC. Copyright protection claimed includes all forms and matters of copyrightable material and information allowed by statutory or judicial law or hereafter granted, including without limitation, material generated from the software programs which are displayed on the screen such as screen displays, menus, etc.

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