by Kylee Osowski, MA, CCC-SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist); NWACS Contributor
Language Acquisition through Motor Planning, or LAMP, has been on my radar for years. I had a general understanding of it, but never worked with an individual using this system. This year I received a student on my caseload who was just given a device with LAMP Words For Life as the vocabulary. I looked online and thankfully a LAMP training was coming to Washington in the beginning of December. Being an all-day course, I was offered lots of information through the conference including research, therapy ideas, strategies, and data taking. Although I won’t go over all of that with you, I wanted to share some general background knowledge about the LAMP philosophy for those who have limited understanding of this AAC approach.
Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP) is a unique augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) approach for individuals with complex communication needs. The intent behind this system is to provide core vocabulary in sensory-rich activities while providing models using a consistent motor pattern. The need for a consistent motor plan was based off the idea that most verbal communicators talk naturally and without much effort. We do not need to motor plan our words and phrases as our brains have created motor patterns which have become automatic. Many individuals with language-related disabilities experience auditory processing differences and/or motor impairments. To combat these core deficits, LAMP combines a motor pattern via a fixed symbol design paired with consistent auditory output on the speech-generating device. This integration of auditory and motor components are designed to enhance language learning and communication.
Part of the LAMP approach includes five components. They are:
Readiness to Learn
Consistent and Unique Motor Plans
Readiness to Learn and Joint Engagement are the precursors to successful language learning and development.
Readiness to Learn
Individuals with developmental delays, particularly autism, display differences in the way they process and respond to sensory input. In order for language learning to be most effective, we need to make sure their sensory systems are ready. Someone who exhibits hyporeactivity to sensory input is not registering enough sensory input and therefore is not alert enough for interaction, learning, and engagement. On the other hand, someone who is hyperreactive to sensory input has difficulty filtering through all the sensory information around them which makes it challenging to focus. Key indicators are below:
If you’re frustrated, you may feel it’s easier to communicate when you calm down. If you’re tired, writing an essay may seem daunting. We all work best when we’re in the Goldilock’s Zone; we’re not overstimulated and we’re not understimulated. Readiness to learn means helping our clients with complex communication needs make their sensory systems just right.
Consult with your occupational therapist on the different sensory management strategies.
Joint attention and engagement are critical foundational skills needed for language development. Joint attention should be obtained first; making sure the individual can follow an event or object with another person. Sustained attention allows the communication partner to label and comment on the shared object/activity. Once you’ve found an activity or object that is engaging to the individual, joint engagement can usually follow. Sticking to activities and objects that are motivating are essential. Allowing the learner to direct the activity will lead to greater engagement. This type of learner-led interaction increases natural and spontaneous communication. As the interaction continues, expand on the communication and find ways to build complexity within the activity. If the individual’s attention seems to fade, allow them more control. In addition, providing stimulating, sensory-rich activities can help maintain alertness and engagement.
Once these two components are obtained, the next three work in conjunction within the LAMP communication process.
Consistent and Unique Motor Patterns
Verbal communicators do not have to concentrate to produce words or sentences. The process for most verbal speakers is relatively effortless. However, individuals using AAC must first learn the motor pattern needed to produce words and sentences. For people using LAMP, the goal is for communication to become automatic like it is for most verbal speakers.
The pages in LAMP Words For Life are set up and cannot be altered. Therapists and teachers can hide certain buttons or increase the page levels, but the icons remain in the same place. That way, once an individual learns an icon, they do not have to search for it again if their device changes or there is an increase in available vocabulary. For example, once an individual using LAMP WFL learns that the sleep icon is in the bottom right corner, they will not need to make a conscious effort searching their device for that word in the future. Over time, an automatic motor pattern for sleep is created.
Pretend, for example, you are asked to type a sentence on a keyboard. Most people can do this with relative ease. You may even be able to do this without looking down at your keyboard. This is because your brain has produced a motor pattern that has become automatic. Now imagine that the keyboard’s icons were rearranged. Now you would need to look down at the keyboard for each letter, spending much more conscious effort producing a sentence. This same principle applies to those using AAC.
When an individual presses an icon on their device, the word is said aloud for them to hear, producing an auditory signal. This pairing of a motor pattern and an auditory signal helps with auditory processing and language development. This multi-sensory convergence emerges as one experience, helping bridge the gap for individuals with auditory processing differences. In turn, this helps with overall language learning.
Meaning is attached to words by what occurs when they are used. When an individual with complex communication needs uses the consistent motor pattern and hears the auditory signal paired with a specific icon or set of icons, a response should be attached immediately to that sequence to provide meaning. Initially, the individual should be provided with an immediate response once they say a word with their device. These responses should involve the interests of the communicator rather than being rote or drill in nature. Once an individual has the idea of a particular word, it is okay to respond with “no more right now”.
What is your experience with LAMP?