Social Interaction Involving Non-speaking Children with Severe Cerebral Palsy and Intellectual Disability : The role of communication partners and speech-generating devices

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate the use of speech-generating device (SGD)-mediated interaction with children with anarthria, severe physical impairments and intellectual disabilities due to cerebral palsy with a focus on partner strategies and social practices.Studies I and II were cross-sectional studies that used questionnaires, which were analyzed using descriptive statistics and directed content analysis. In Study I, speech and language pathologists’ (SLPs) practices and perceptions of communication partner training in SGD-mediated interaction were examined. In Study II, communication partners’ (i.e., caregivers’, teachers’, and assistants’) practices and perceptions of communication partner training in SGD-mediated interaction were examined.Studies III and IV were qualitative observational studies that used video recordings, which were analyzed with ethnomethodological conversation analysis. Study III investigated how multiparty classroom interaction was organized when one of the students used an eye-gaze accessed SGD. Study IV explored the social actions that mobilized SGD-mediated responses when the child was a beginner user of the eye-gaze accessed SGD.The findings suggest the following: all participants (i.e., SLPs, caregivers, teachers, and assistants) considered that SGD-mediated interaction was beneficial for the children. SLPs were important providers but they provided few training sessions and used mostly verbal instructions. Communication partners could benefit from more support from SLPs and SLPs should consider using additional instructional approaches such as feedback and role-play when coaching communication partners in SGD-mediated interaction. Children could interact with their eye-gaze accessed SGDs in multiparty classroom interactions provided that the turn-taking in Initiation-Response-Evaluation (IRE) sequences was applied and that the teacher or the assistant provided contingent on-screen gaze and deictic scaffolding actions. Communication partners to children who were beginner users of an eye-gaze accessed SGD may need to produce repeated turn transition relevance places and use contingent on-screen gaze and deictic practices to scaffold an SGD-mediated response.This thesis brings new knowledge to the field of SGD-mediated interaction. Partner strategies that can enhance children’s linguistic skills were seldom used in multiparty classroom interaction, but other social practices were used, which facilitated social inclusion and participation.