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    Attributes of communication aids as described by those supporting children and young people with AAC

    Judge, Simon, Murray, Janice ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8809-4256, Lynch, Yvonne, Meredith, Stuart, Moulam, Liz, Randall, Nicola, Whittle, Helen and Goldbart, Juliet ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1290-7833 (2023) Attributes of communication aids as described by those supporting children and young people with AAC. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 58 (3). pp. 910-928. ISSN 1368-2822

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    Abstract

    Background Those supporting children and young people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) contribute to ongoing complex decision-making about communication aid selection and support. Little is known about how these decisions are made in practice and how attributes of the communication aid are described or considered. Aims To understand how communication aid attributes were described by those involved in AAC recommendations and support for children and young people, and how these attributes were described as impacting on AAC use. Methods & Procedures A secondary qualitative analysis was completed of interview and focus group data from 91 participants involved in the support of 22 children and young people. Attributes of communication aids described by participants were extracted as themes and this paper reports a descriptive summary of the identified software (non-hardware) attributes. Main Contribution Decisions were described in terms of comparisons between commercially available pre-existing vocabulary packages. Attributes related to vocabulary, graphic representation, consistency and intuitiveness of design, and ease of editing were identified. Developmental staging of vocabularies, core and fringe vocabulary, and vocabulary personalization were attributes that were described as being explicitly considered in decisions. The potential impact of graphic symbol choice did not seem to be considered strongly. The physical and social environment was described as the predominant factor driving the choice of a number of attributes. Conclusions & Implications Specific attributes that appear to be established in decision-making in these data have limited empirical research literature. Terms used in the literature to describe communication aid attributes were not observed in these data. Practice-based evidence does not appear to be supported by the available research literature and these findings highlight several areas where empirical research is needed in order to provide a robust basis for practice. What This Paper Adds What is already known on the subject Communication aid attributes are viewed as a key consideration by practitioners and family members in AAC decision-making; however, there are few empirical studies investigating language and communication attributes of communication aids. It is important to understand how those involved in AAC recommendations and support view communication aid attributes and the impact different attributes have. What this paper adds to existing knowledge This study provides a picture of how communication aids are described by practitioners and family members involved in AAC support of children and young people. A range of attributes is identified from the analysis of these qualitative data as well as information about how participants perceive these attributes as informing decisions. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? This study provides a basis on which practitioners and others involved in AAC support for children and young people can review and reflect on their own practice and so improve the outcomes of AAC decisions. The study provides a list of attributes that appear to be considered in practice and so also provides a resource for researchers looking to ensure there is a strong empirical basis for AAC decisions.

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