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‘AACtion Heroes’ : exploring child-led interactions and practices for hearing the views of children who use hi-tech AAC

Hrastelj, Laura L (2021) ‘AACtion Heroes’ : exploring child-led interactions and practices for hearing the views of children who use hi-tech AAC. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This research is underpinned by the principle that all children have the right to express their views (United Nations, 1989) and have those views taken seriously (UNICEF, 2021). This includes children who use minimal or no speech to communicate who may express themselves through other modes. This thesis presents an exploration of practices for hearing the views of children with complex communication needs (CCN) who may use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. In addition, it details the characteristics of interactions mediated through hi-tech AAC whilst interlocutors are engaged in child-led practices. The thesis describes the development of ‘AACtion Heroes’: a child-led approach for exploring the views of children who use hi-tech AAC and their peers with CCN in a special education setting. The research then uses a qualitative lens to explore child-led practices for hearing the views of children who use hi-tech AAC and examines the participants’ interactions when engaged in these child-led practices. It also explores how adults in a special education setting contribute to the process of being child-led and examines the viability of AACtion Heroes from the perspective of the participants. The findings offer broad ethnographic insight into how participants heard and acted on the views of a child who uses hi-tech AAC while participating in AACtion Heroes. They also provide a detailed, visual, investigation into the minutiae of the child’s interactions with various interlocutors. Subsequently, this thesis has two contributions to knowledge: (i) it adds to child-led participatory methods for hearing the views of children who use AAC in research and in their everyday school setting (ii) it adds to what is known about interactions mediated through hi-tech AAC in a special education setting.

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