Rachel, Lucas, and Chris are joined this week by Dr. Calum Hartley, Professor of Psychology at Lancaster University. Dr. Hartley’s research focuses on why some young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and complex communication needs may have a difficult time learning the meaning of pictures (e.g., icons, drawings, photographs). One reason a child with ASD may understand one picture over another is its “iconicity,” or how closely the picture resembles its referent (i.e., what the picture is intended to look like). Rachel, Lucas, and Chris open the episode by discussing why iconicity is important to AAC and how it influences communication. The team then discusses why teaching children the meaning of pictures is so important, and situations in which they would (and would not) consider replacing icons with photographs on a speech-generating device. Finally, Lucas and Rachel sit down with Dr. Hartley to discuss his research into ASD, iconicity, and symbolic communication. Dr. Harley and the team provide a fascinating look into picture comprehension, why understanding language is closely connected to understanding pictures, and how we can use iconicity to improve our AAC interventions.
Questions answered this episode include: Why do some children understand photographs more easily than drawings? How do children with ASD learn about pictures in unique ways? How can we use iconicity to improve our AAC interventions? How can we support learning the meaning of pictures? What makes core words less iconic than fringe words?
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Hartley, C., & Allen, M. L. (2015). Iconicity influences how effectively minimally verbal children with autism and ability-matched typically developing children use pictures as symbols in a search task. Autism, 19(5), 570-579.
Hartley, C., Trainer, A., & Allen, M. L. (2017). Investigating the relationship between language and picture understanding in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 1362361317729613.