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Spelling (Alphabet-Based Strategies)


What It Is

Spelling is the ultimate tool for generating novel messages. For this reason, most speech generating devices and many software programs incorporate alphabet layouts into their systems.

Letter-based communication systems can provide a reliable means of communication for students with severe speech disorders. The spelling-based systems are divided into two categories Ė low-tech manual boards and speech generating keyboard devices. The manual board is a piece of paper or other material with the alphabet written on it in squares, whereas a speech-generating keyboard is an electronic device that will speak the words typed on it. With the manual board, the person points to printed alphabet letters and with the speech-generating keyboard, the person manipulates a keyboard to enter information.

Speech generating alphabet layouts allow students to play with sounds and create the visual-auditory circuit that all children need to 'break the code'.

Again, this strategy, if a match for a studentís needs, skills and existing strategies, can further expand a multi-modal communication system.

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What It's Not

Alphabet systems are not just for highly proficient spellers.

Even students with the most rudimentary spelling skills (e.g., knowing only initial consonants) can make very good use of spelling layouts to communicate and repair breakdowns. Many users prefer spelling, regardless of efficiency, because it allows them to say exactly what they want.

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How It Works

With low-tech systems, there are a number of variables for the studentís access and the communication partnerís feedback. Students may use direct selection, encoding, or partner assisted scanning. Students may want the communication partner to predict as they spell or to wait until their message is complete.

To assist with speed of communication, high-tech solutions may include features such as grammar prediction, word prediction, increasing/decreasing the length of the prediction list, flexible abbreviation, macros, automatic spacing and capitalization, and modified keyboard layouts. Designed to reduce the number of key strokes involved in composing a message, such strategies generally are believed to serve that purpose. Research has demonstrated that the number of key strokes can be reduced by 35Ė50% when using strategies such as word prediction.

Brian’s teacher prompts him with a letter sound. He then cues himself with the letter sign before typing with his Pathfinder.

Elle’s teacher assists Elle to scan through a letter array which is presented one row at a time. Elle visually scans her choices and then uses her voice to select letters to spell the word ‘green’.

View additional information about keyboard layouts and frequency of letter use [PDF, 224KB].

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