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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Literacy as a learner variable in the use of salient letter codes for dedicated speech computers Rao, Sudha Suzanne


Literacy level is an important user variable in the process of selecting an appropriate augmentative communication device for a nonspeaking individual. This study investigated how much literacy was sufficient for a child to learn and remember salient letter codes to access prestored communicative messages from the memory of dedicated speech computers. Recent investigations (Light et al., 1988) have demonstrated that salient letter codes are the type of code most easily and accurately remembered by nonspeaking, literate adults. The present study examined the use of the salient letter encoding technique by children with varying degrees of literacy. The performance of three groups of normal children (19 literate, 21 emergent literate and 21 preliterate) was measured in terms of error rate and strategy use as a function of literacy ability after specific codes and the salient letter encoding strategy were explicitly taught for accessing ten communicative messages. Error analysis showed that the emergent literate and literate groups used the salient letter encoding strategy whereas the preliterate group used two ineffective visual strategies. Mean accuracy scores indicated mastery of the salient letter encoding technique by literate subjects (89% correct), sufficient performance by emergent literate subjects (66% correct) and very poor performance by preliterate subjects (27% correct). The accuracy scores and patterns of strategy use indicated that emergent literacy skills were sufficient for use of salient letter codes. It seems likely that future research using personalized codes with emergent literate children may demonstrate improved accuracy. The generalizability of these results to disordered populations and application to iconic systems was discussed. Extrapolated to the nonspeaking population, the results indicate that literate or emergent literate nonspeaking children would be capable users of salient letter codes. The performance of the three experimental groups was compared from the heuristic of a procedural view of memory with regard to opposing views of the nature of psycholinguistic and literacy development.

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