IMPACTS OF USE IN A COVID-19 PANDEMIC: The Experiences of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their Use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices in the Classroom, From a Teacher’s Perspective

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Frid, Ally
Autism spectrum disorder , AAC device , Communication , COVID-19 , Pandemic , Special Education , Virtual learning
Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices to communicate with other students, and teachers, in a classroom setting. However, less is known about the lived experiences of children with ASD who use these devices, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This project explored the meaningful use of AAC devices for children with ASD in both an in-person and virtual setting, from the perspective of their instructors. I conducted 8 in-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews with (special education) teachers that taught children with ASD who used AAC devices, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews were conducted over Zoom and ran for approximately one hour. Each interview was transcribed and coded inductively using NVivo, in accordance with Braun and Clarke's (2022) thematic analysis. Three thematic categories emerged through the data, including the impacts of use in a virtual setting, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the available resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, with suggestions for future interventions. This research was grounded in experiential learning theory, by analyzing the complexity of the learning experience through assistive technology and disability. A social relational model of disability was used to reveal the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the communication of children with ASD, who used AAC devices in a virtual setting. I conclude with policy recommendations and suggestions for future avenues of change to aid with communication for children with ASD who use AAC devices, virtually and in-person.
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