Controlled studies

Several controlled experimental studies on SA were published (Miller and Miller 1968, 1971). In the first experiment (Miller and Miller 1968) the efficacy of an "accentuation" approach was compared with a conventional method of merely naming the conventional printed words. The presentation of words under the "accentuated" condition relied on flash cards on which hybrid word-picture forms had been carefully created on one side, with the conventional forms of the words on the other side. The accentuated word forms were constructed so that walk had letters which appeared to be walking, the word wood was made of wood, etc. First we showed each of ten severely developmentally delayed people (mean age 15, mean IQ45) the hybrid word-picture forms, then we flipped the cards over to show the words in their conventional forms (see Figure 11.1a).

Lists of words were alternated so that both lists—nine words in each— were shown an equal number of times. Since each child was his or her own control, it was possible to examine the number of trials required before each child could recognize the word in its conventional form.

Accentuated words were learned with significantly fewer trials than were those words presented in conventional form. Further, when placed within sentences in their conventional forms, the accentuated words could be identified as well as those taught only in conventional forms.

A second experiment (described in the same article) was performed to test the reliability of the initial findings with a larger group (N=38) of developmentally delayed people whose mean age was 17 and mean IQwas 50. In this study a stroboscopic projector was used which enabled the accentuated and conventional presentations ofthe words to be projected on a screen in front of the subjects. In projecting words for the accentuated condition a slide with the word in its accentuated form was placed in one projector and a slide with the word in its conventional form in the other. This procedure resulted in the illusion of motion when the words were projected on the same space and alternated at a rate of 2.7 times per second. Then, the word walk appeared to walk, jump to jump, etc. This lively effect did not occur with the conventional presentation, during which both slide projectors projected the word on the same space in its conventional form. Figure 11.1b shows the words used in the stroboscopic experiment.

Substantially the same results were found as in the first study. The difference favoring rate of learning of accentuated over conventionally presented words was significant at less than the .001 level. As in the previous study, words learned with accentuation could be identified as well as those presented only in their conventional forms.

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Figure 11.1a Lists of accentuated and conventional words from two experiments. Miller and Miller (1968)

The results of both experiments supported the hypothesis that accentuation works. Children learn to read accentuated words far more rapidly than words presented in conventional forms. The critical factor seemed to be the transition from pictured object to conventional word which accentuated conditions provided but which conventional presentations did not.

However, to clarify the source of accentuation's effectiveness, I conducted a study (Miller 1968) contrasting two groups of normal preschool age children (three- to four-year-olds, vs. five- to six-year-olds) using a different procedure. Later (Miller and Miller 1971) this same procedure was used with 40 developmentally delayed children.

The new procedure in these studies entailed contrasting an accentuated condition in which picture forms merged into printed words with a separated

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Figure 11.1b Lists of accentuated and conventional words used in stroboscope experiment. Miller and Miller (1968)

Figure 11.1b Lists of accentuated and conventional words used in stroboscope experiment. Miller and Miller (1968)

condition in which there was no merger between picture and printed word (see Figure 11.2). The two conditions differed only in the relation of the pictured object to the printed word. During accentuated sequences motion picture animation was used to project a moving object which rapidly tranformed into the appropriate printed word. For example, a nose in the course of being sniffed would transform into the printed word nose. In contrast, the separated sequence would present the identical sniffing nose above and separated from the printed word.

With each group the measure was based on the number of words which could be successfully identified at the end of four presentations under either

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Figure 11.2 Comparison of accentuated and printed words. Miller and Miller (1 971)

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("look say") presentations of accentuated or separated conditions. In studying the effect of accentuation with the typical three- to four- vs. five- to six-year-olds we sought to examine the relation between accentuation and typical development.

Results for the three studies indicated that while typical three- and four-year-old children as well as developmentally delayed children did significantly better on accentuated than separated presentations, there was no significant difference between conditions for typical five- and six-year-olds.

These studies indicate that by five or six years of age, typical children no longer require symbol accentuation procedures for printed words. Apparently, having grasped the symbolic function of printed words, they can deliberately establish relations between words and their referents without the relation being enacted for them by accentuation.

This raised the question as to whether typical five- or six-year-olds who no longer required accentuation for printed words might benefit from accentuation with regard to letter-sound relations. Accordingly, another study was conducted (Miller 1968) to clarify this issue.

In this study, the accentuated condition for each of five letters (b, f s, t, o) consisted of a mouth appearing on the screen and going through lip and tongue movements required to utter one of the sounds symbolized by these letters. As these mouth movements progressed on the screen, they transformed into the appropriate letter. For the separated condition, the mouth went through the same movements but did not transform into the letter. Instead, the letters remained next to but separate from the mouth movements (see Figure 11.3).

The results of this study with typical five- and six-year-olds were consistent with the hypothesized effect of accentuation in that significantly more letter-sound relations were learned under accentuated than separated conditions. This evidence indicates that accentuation is important for teaching letter-sound relations even after it is no longer required for word-object relations. It indicates, also, that the word-object relation is, developmentally, more readily grasped than that between letters and sounds.

The finding that accentuation is related to typical development and is effective prior to children grasping the symbolic relation between word and object or letter to sound is important. It implies that the accentuation procedure would be effective for all children—including those on the autism

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Figure 11.3 Accentuated versus separated presentations of f and t. Miller (1 968)

spectrum—who had not been able to grasp the relation between words and their objects or letters and their sounds. The varied field applications described below sought to test this notion.

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Funny Wiring Autism

Funny Wiring Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that manifests itself in early childhood and affects the functioning of the brain, primarily in the areas of social interaction and communication. Children with autism look like other children but do not play or behave like other children. They must struggle daily to cope and connect with the world around them.

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