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An exploration of social communication in the clinical and educational context

Brown, Judith Patricia (2013) An exploration of social communication in the clinical and educational context. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The term ‘social communication’ is used within UK health and education services across a number of professional groups. However, it is unclear what social communication is and how professionals should address the needs of children and young people described as having social communication deficits. This thesis explores the understanding and use of the term ‘social communication’ in clinical and educational contexts. A broadly phenomenological approach was adopted in this mixed methods study to consider professionals’ views regarding the concept of ‘social communication’. Five data sets were collected and triangulated. A pilot focus group explored what Speech and Language Therapists (SALTs) mean by the term. A survey across three professional groups, teachers (n=35), Educational Psychologists (n=21) and SALTs (n=37) gathered wider perspectives. Focus groups with SALTs allowed a more detailed exploration from the perspective of a single profession. Semi-structured interviews enabled an in-depth investigation of specific assessment and intervention models. A concurrent systematic synthesis of the literature established current research conclusions regarding the phenomenon. A variety of analytical approaches was used across all five data sets to develop a synergistic overview of views regarding social communication. The synthesised data generated a conceptual framework incorporating 17 sub-themes which fell into three overarching themes: terminology, aetiological considerations and assessment, intervention and outcome factors. Social communication is a complex concept that can be described rather than defined, but a greater understanding of the concept informs models of assessment and intervention relevant to the needs of individual children. Intervention should be individualised and it is essential that ‘context’ is prioritised. Models to support the assessment and intervention process are presented and implications for future research and practice are discussed.

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