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Phonological Encoding in Aided Augmentative and Alternative Communication


Short-term memory for words is typically described in terms of phonological storage and rehearsal. However, research has shown that task demands, such as alternative means of output, may alter characteristics of short-term word storage. Alternative / Augmentative Communication (AAC) via high-technology Speech Generating Devices (SGDs), typically used by people with profound communication impairments, involves production of words via device-specific motor sequences. No study, however, has systematically considered potential effects of SGD-based production on short-term memory for words.

In the current study, modality of short-term word storage was evaluated in a group of adult typical speakers trained to use SGDs, as well as a small group of authentic long-term users of SGDs. Results indicated that neurotypical subjects continued to store word lists phonologically when using SGDs, while authentic users of SGDs demonstrated phonological encoding more strongly during recall of high frequency `core' words than during recall of lower frequency `fringe' words. Thus, phonological encoding appears to remain a robust means of short-term word storage across output modalities.

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