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Selection Tool

The Alternative Method of Speaking [AMS] Selection Tool provides a ‘process’ for helping an individual child or adult, who does not use spoken words effectively or at all, become an effective speaker. This tool in its original analog form was part of an extensive and detailed chapter on ‘Methods of Speaking’ in Essential for Living (EFL): A Communication, Behavior, and Functional Skills Curriculum and Assessment. Although this tool can be used with any curriculum or assessment instrument, a copy of the EFL Handbook and Teaching Manual will be helpful, as components of this tool and recommendations for its use are described in this chapter. [We are grateful for the previous digital versions of this tool, which were provided by Nick Kneer and Eb Blakely] The ‘process’ described in this tool begins with determining the individual’s Vocal Profile, which helps parents or care providers determine if spoken words can be used more effectively or if an alternative method of speaking is neces-sary. If a spoken-word repertoire is limited, suggestions for improving that repertoire are provided. If an individual needs an alternative method of speaking, this ‘process’ continues with a thoughtful consideration of the current repertoire of each individual child or adult, rather than an estimate of cognitive ability or the preferences of a practitioner. This tool then individualizes the selection process. Once a method is selected, it is tested to confirm its effectiveness and the likelihood it will last a lifetime. [We strongly suggest using a computer or a tablet with this tool, rather than a phone]
Alternative Method of Speaking (AMS) Selection Tool

Does your learner need an Alternative Method of Speaking?

Determining if a Child or an Adult
Can Use or Begin to Use Spoken Words Effectively
or Needs An Alternative Method of Speaking

When a child or an adult is not using spoken words effectively, or not at all, review the Six Vocal Profiles described below and determine which profile most accurately describes this individual. These six profiles were developed by Janine Shapiro, a speech-language pathologist and behavior analyst with extensive experience with children who have limited or no spoken-word repertoires. These profiles will help you determine if a child or an adult needs an alternative method of speaking and what procedures might be helpful in encouraging the further development of spoken words.

The Six Vocal Profiles are also described in the Essential for Living Teaching Manual, pp. 9-12, and the Essential for Living Practitioner’s Handbook, pp. 49-53, , along with a comprehensive array of functional, life skills and teaching procedures with which instruction should begin and continue throughout the life span of children and adults with limited skill repertoires.

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Vocal Profiles

Review these six vocal profiles and then click "next" to use the decision tree to decide on the appropriate vocal profile with which to align for your child or adult.

For more detailed information on these vocal profiles and how to advance a learner from one vocal profile to another, please see pages 47-53 of ‘Essential for Living: The Practitioner’s Handbook’ and pages 9-12 of “Essential for Living: The Teaching Manual”

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Select Vocal Profile

Does the learner RELIABLY (almost every time) repeat sounds, words, or approximations Click here for examples

Does the learner repeat most sounds and words in a way that unfamiliar listeners can understand?

Does the learner SOMETIMES name parts of items, request information, AND answer several type of questions?

Profile 1

Profile 2

Profile 4

Has the learner spontaneously produced at least 5 different words in the last week?

Would an unfamiliar listener understand these words?

Profile 3

Profile 5

Profile 6

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AMS Vocal Profile Conclusion


The child or adult is beginning to use or can use spoken words effectively and does not need an alternative method of speaking at this time

More Information

If a Child or an Adult Already has an Alternative Method of Speaking, Determining the Effectiveness of This Method and if This Method is Likely to last a Lifetime:

Many children and adults do not use spoken words effectively, or at all, and currently have an alternative method of speaking. Many of these methods are either ineffective or not likely to last a lifetime. An ineffective method is one that does not permit a child or an adult to make requests without a struggle. A method that is not likely to last a lifetime is one that does NOT meet three guidelines we strongly recommend:

Continuously Available
Frequently used,
and Effortless (summarized by the acronym CAFE).

If one or more young children with whom you are working has an alter-native method of speaking that is ineffective or not likely to last a lifetime, you should strongly consider selecting and ‘adding' a new alternative method of speaking. If this new method is effective and likely to last a lifetime, you may want to consider gradually ‘replacing’ the current method with the new one.

If you are working with an older child or an adult, especially one who has had an alternative method of speaking for many years, you may want to consider either selecting and ‘adding’ a new method of speaking ‘without replacing’ the current one or making adjustments to the current method to improve its effectiveness or to increase the likelihood it will last a lifetime.

This information is also described in the Essential for Living Practitioner’s Handbook, pp. 65-67…

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Determining the Individual Child or Adult’s
Sensory, Skill, and Behavioral Repertoire

If an individual child or adult needs an alternative method of speaking, this tool continues by asking you to specify their sensory, skill, and behavioral repertoire. This repertoire will then be compared to those that occur when each of 46 alternative methods of speaking are effective, resulting in a list of methods ranked from most-to-least with respect to matching this individual’s repertoire. This tool also specifies from most-to-least the extent to which advantages of spoken word are retained by each of these methods. And, finally, this tool specifies whether each method tends to result in a large audience, including unfamiliar people, or a small audience comprised almost exclusively of familiar people. In sum, this tool provides for your consideration a list of alternative methods of speaking that are consistent with an individual child or adult’s skill repertoire, that provide as many advantages of spoken words as possible, and that indicate the size of the audience that might be expected.

The Child's or Adult's sensory skill and behavioral repertorie

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Share your story

Tell us your stories using the AMS Selection Tool or let us know if you have any questions using this tool! We would love to publish your story to inspire others to get learners on their best method of communication and how that opened up their world. Please, no names or any kind of PHI.

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