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    Emergence of working memory in children using aided communication

    Murray, J and Goldbart, Juliet (2011) Emergence of working memory in children using aided communication. Journal of Assistive Technologies, 5 (4). pp. 214-232. ISSN 1754-9450

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    Purpose - Working memory (WM) is a key component of effective and efficient communication in typical communicators, with, potentially, even greater significance for those who benefit from augmentative communication. This study aims to explore the emergence of WM strategies in children with complex communication needs who may be reliant on aided communication strategies. Design/methodology/approach - A quasi-experimental repeated measures, multi-factorial research design, comparing 30 children with complex communication needs (CCN) aged three to six years and 30 age-matched typically developing peers. Picture stimuli representing verbs and adjectives in three categories: control words, long words and phonologically similar words are presented visually or silently in sequences of increasing length to establish each participant's memory span. Findings - Articulatory rehearsal does not appear to be used as a memory strategy with verb material. With adjective material, there is limited evidence of emerging articulatory rehearsal at age six. Input modality does not influence rehearsal of either verbs or adjectives. Research limitations/implications - The study is small scale and exploratory, but there are suggestions that both groups of participants handle verb and adjective material differently to noun material. Practical implications - Emerging WM skill in children with CCN needs to be considered in relation to the use of speech generating technology. Originality/value - This paper contributes to understanding of the development and potential influence of WM in efficient aided communication.

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