What Alex the Parrot Can Teach Us About Working With Children With Complex Communication Needs Alex the Parrot was an African grey trained by Dr. Irene Pepperberg to communicate at the level of a 5 year old. Pepperberg used a training method called the model/ rival technique where one person was the trainer, while the other was the model for the bird—and consequently, its rival ... Article
Article  |   December 01, 2008
What Alex the Parrot Can Teach Us About Working With Children With Complex Communication Needs
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Iris Fishman
    New York, NY
Article Information
Augmentative & Alternative Communication / School-Based Settings / Articles
Article   |   December 01, 2008
What Alex the Parrot Can Teach Us About Working With Children With Complex Communication Needs
SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, December 2008, Vol. 17, 144-149. doi:10.1044/aac17.4.144
SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, December 2008, Vol. 17, 144-149. doi:10.1044/aac17.4.144
Abstract

Alex the Parrot was an African grey trained by Dr. Irene Pepperberg to communicate at the level of a 5 year old. Pepperberg used a training method called the model/ rival technique where one person was the trainer, while the other was the model for the bird—and consequently, its rival for the trainer's attention. This model has implications for delivery of AAC treatment services. Although good clinical practice dictates that we deliver AAC services to children with complex communication needs in the same setting in which they will ultimately use their systems, services are still often delivered in one on one sessions. Very often these sessions are conducted without any of the child's significant communication partners present but the clinician herself. The manner in which services are delivered may be the decision of the clinician or it may be dictated by circumstances beyond her control (e.g., school policy, parental decisions, etc.). When services are delivered in a one-on-one setting, the natural social interaction provided by a third person, whether it is a peer or an adult caregiver, is absent. Thus, the clinician may want to create a treatment situation that includes a Helping Doll to model language for the child and create a rival for the child's attention and participation. The Doll was described by Goossens' et al. (1992) to be used with the aided language stimulation approach with a group of children in a preschool setting and detailed scripts of how the Doll could model language using color coded communication displays were provided. These scripts can effectively be used in a one on one situation with low tech displays as well as speech generating devices. Use of the Helping Doll can also be used to promote greater communication partner involvement.

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