Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Janet A. Norris


This study addressed a poorly understood variable of voice output communication aid (VOCA) use, namely mnemonic development. Forty children without disabilities, aged from 49 to 60 months, were required to use an IntroTalker (Prentke Romich Company) to participate in a one-on-one storybook reading task with the investigator. They were provided with sixteen messages to use during a scripted reading of The Three Bears. Children could use a trained verbal elaboration strategy or generate their own methods to retrieve messages. Immediate and delayed responses of children under two training methods were compared, and the contribution of developmental factors, including metamemory, were evaluated. In the control method, Direct Instruction (DI), children learned to retrieve messages via an error-free method including simple repetition of a verbal elaboration mnemonic. In the experimental method, Active Problem Solving (APS), children were first led through a series of steps alerting them to the limitations of non-symbolic retrieval strategies and allowing them to make retrieval errors, thus discovered the relative value of various retrieval strategies. Next, they were taught to retrieve the remaining messages in the same way as the DI children. Children with low metamemory skill were less accurate in their retrieval of messages, and produced more Self-corrected Responses when trained under the APS condition. Children receiving APS training showed an initial retrieval advantage on the first story-retelling immediately following training; however, on the second day retrieval by DI subjects matched APS. It was concluded that DI children experienced a de facto "active problem-solving" condition on the first day, when they produced many errors, thereby enhancing the value of the verbal elaborations they had been trained to use. Effects of perceptual, semantic and syntactic development, and of conflicts between the canonical and experimental Three Bears script were evident. Although the use of a normally developing population is controversial in the area of augmentative communication, the strategy was found to produce valuable insights into the errors made by children. Overall, the task was easy for most of the children, thereby supporting the use of VOCAs with young children.