The Experiences of Students with Intellectual Disability and their Teachers During the Implementation Process of an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device: A Case Study

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Paterson, Leslie A.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication , Intellectual Disability
The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of students with intellectual disability (ID) and their teachers throughout the implementation process of an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. Two students and three teachers at an arts-based school for adults with developmental disabilities were trained by a speech and language pathologist on how to use the device. The students were selected by the teachers because they had limited ability to produce speech, and it was thought that they would benefit from using the device. The three teachers made up the school’s faculty, and the speech and language pathologist was selected based on her expertise working with people with developmental disabilities. Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) framed the study, and, it guided the observations and discussion of this thesis. Student experiences were explained through the lens of this theory, but teacher experiences were more applicable to Guskey’s (1989) model of teacher change. This framework was used to interpret the experiences of the teachers. Data were collected through direct observations and teacher journals throughout the implementation process, and semi-structured interviews, post-implementation. A total of 10, one-hour observations per student were conducted between January 15, 2013 and March 11, 2013; with one additional observation of an unplanned follow-up session that lasted one-and-a-half hours on May 8, 2013. The researcher observed student communication and engagement before, during, and after the device was brought into the class. The implementation steps included: introduction and experimentation with the AAC device in-class; teacher-only training; in-class student coaching and modeling; and withdrawal of SLP support. This study found that that there were practical and logistical challenges with AAC device implementation for both students and teachers. Limited time for in-class training, strategic planning, goal-setting, and financial resources, such as funds to hire supply teachers so that teachers could observe in-class training, were barriers to implementation. One student, more than the other, used the AAC device to communicate throughout the study. Recommendations emerging from the study included more purposeful advance planning, goal-setting, developing teacher pedagogical knowledge prior to implementation, and collectively-planned in-class training sessions for students and teachers.
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