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    Using longitudinal qualitative research to explore the experience of receiving and using augmentative and alternative communication

    Broomfield, Katherine, Judge, Simon, Sage, Karen, Jones, Georgina L and James, Deborah ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7626-9418 (2023) Using longitudinal qualitative research to explore the experience of receiving and using augmentative and alternative communication. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. ISSN 1368-2822

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    Background: People who have communication difficulties may benefit from using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Understanding and measuring outcomes from the use of AAC is an important part of evaluating the impact of devices and services. Outcome measurement needs to reflect the changing nature of the impact of using AAC on an individual's ability to participate in activities of daily life. There is a limited understanding of the concepts that should inform the evaluation of outcomes from AAC device provision, nor how people's expectations from AAC may change over time. Aims: To inform the development of a patient-reported outcome measure for AAC by understanding more about people's expectations from AAC and how these change over time. Methods & Procedures: A longitudinal qualitative research study was designed and carried out with seven participants over a period of 2 years. Participants were recruited from a regional specialist assessment service for AAC in the south-west of the UK. Four semi-structured interviews were carried out: (1) before assessment for AAC, (2) after assessment, (3) directly after provision of an AAC device and (4) between 6 and 12 months after provision. An original analytic method was used in this study that built on the principles of longitudinal interpretative phenomenology analysis, applied with a dialogic theoretical lens. This approach enabled the inclusion of a range of multimodal and embodied data collected to this study and allowed the research team to draw out salient themes across the cohort group while attending to the influence of time and context on experience. Outcomes & Results: The results confirm and extend the three core concepts that were used to guide analysis: changes; contexts; future possibilities. The contextual and temporal influences on outcomes attainable from AAC for this cohort were also identified and illustrated through cross-case comparison. Deeper, analytic, and conceptual engagement with theory, which was then applied to analysis of the data, provided methodological rigour in the study. The results enhance our understanding of people's hopes and expectations from AAC and how these change over time. Conclusions & Implications: This qualitative longitudinal research study provides new insights into the journeys of people who experience communication disability, and the shifting nature of their sense of identity as they engage with, and learn from using, AAC. The study is significant as it attends to the dynamic nature of experience and how contextual and experiential factors influence people's hopes and expectations from AAC. The paper presents an original application of longitudinal qualitative research methodology with people who use AAC which can be further applied and tested in the field of communication disability research. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: What is already known on this subject We did not know the impact that time has on the concepts that have been identified to represent important outcomes from AAC. The existing concepts used to define outcomes from AAC were not adequately conceptualized to develop a patient-reported outcome measure. This study sought to extend our knowledge about outcomes from AAC. What this paper adds to the existing knowledge This study adds to the methodological toolkit available for qualitative inquiry in the field of communication disability research by presenting a longitudinal qualitative research methodology. It adds depth to our understanding of the concepts that underpin outcomes from AAC and highlights the dynamic nature of contexts and how this influences desired outcomes. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? This longitudinal qualitative research study provides a broader perspective on the experience of getting AAC. It will enable clinicians to better navigate the contextual and transitionary factors that influence people's experience of acquiring AAC devices. The enhanced concepts described will also support clinical conversations that consider the wider facets of communication and what AAC can add to existing communicative tool kits beyond getting a message across.

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