Academia in Action Finding a Voice at the Shops

Did you know that iPads used as a speech generated device – can increase communication and participation outcomes in the community?

A few years ago, honours research was conducted in a real time case study. The researcher (myself) also implemented the study in their shared community and the participant became her hero. Transitioning from using the iPad just for entertainment aka youtube – to learning how to use the iPad with a speech application as his voice for getting his needs met and expressing himself with others (including community members) was a massive step. Shortly after, I became immersed in completing the actual thesis for submission, which I got a distinction for and graduated with honours.  “Enabling a young adult with complex communication needs to use an iPad in the community; Facilitators and Barriers” Kristi Sproates, Pammi Raghavendra and Fiona Rillotta Unpublished thesis from Honours Research.  Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education Degree, Flinders University, 2015. Poster was accepted and presented at AGOSCI Conference, 2015.  If that’s not for you and you just want to hear it simply, please read on Abbreviated Abstract The aim of the study was to evaluate use of an iPad for communication for a person with Complex Communication Needs. A 22 year old male with Autism Spectrum Disorder and intellectual disability (Henry) was supported to use his iPad for communication for eight weeks in the community using modelling and prompt strategies.  Results showed an increase in communication with others and participation in the community. Goal Attainment Scaling showed he met four out of five of his communication goals. Observations showed that throughout intervention, Henry’s confidence and competence to communicate using the iPad grew.  This study demonstrates the feasibility of a community-based intervention to teach iPad use for communicating and participating in the community. 

THAT was and still is very important research.

Results were positive and were the impetus for me to take those findings, build my business Appy Connections and get out and implement this in my community on the far South Coast, NSW so I could help more people to use technology to overcome their barriers to communication.  Starting a business is exciting, time consuming and overwhelming but I was determined those findings were not going in a drawer. I’ve actually been busy and neglected to share them with the wider digital community, so the time to share is now.

5 FINDINGS as discussed in Honours Thesis

They are shown here in academic speak and then everyday practical speak 🙂

Academic Speak Everyday practical Speak
  1. Importance of Individualised Goal Setting
Doing what you want / enjoy does matter
  1. Communication and Participation in Community Settings
Talking more and being involved when out and about
  1. Multi-purpose use of the iPad
There’s an app for that
  1. Minimising Barriers to Successful Communication
What we need to do – so we can all communicate
  1. Education and Awareness raising
What others really should know

The column on the right ‘Everyday Practical Speak’ will be the topic for my next few blogs. If you would like to be kept in the loop about practical strategies for using technology that supports people with disabilities and overcome barriers to communicating, participating and being confident in the community, please let me know  But for now, take a look at The First Finding.

Academic Speak – Importance of Individualised Goal Setting

Talking Mats™ is a communication tool based on extensive research and was administered to the non-verbal participant of the study to ascertain his preference of activities. Fifteen ‘recreation and leisure’ symbols (with Velcro backing) were made available to him, examples were: cooking, walking, shopping, listening to music, computer and ten pin bowling. Symbols representing ‘like’ (thumbs up), ‘dislike’ (thumbs down) and ‘not sure’ were placed at the top of the mat (known as the top scale). Leisure activities were presented one at a time, and he placed them on the mat according to his likes/dislikes. If he seemed unsure, the researcher would repeat the meaning of the symbols and allow time to process the move and or change his decision. He chose five activities: shopping/eating out, bowling, walking, sport and playing games.  An example of Talking Mats in action is seen here: Blackstone and Hunt Berg (2012), noted individual preferences are important when making decisions about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) supports. In the study individual preferences were central to planning and once activities were identified the intervention was planned around these scheduled leisure activities.  This finding of the importance of individual goal setting was consistent with Light and McNaughton’s (2014) argument for a functional approach to AAC interventions that focus on communication and participation in real situations, which was the focus of this study. Everyday Practical Speak – Doing what you want / enjoy does matter I would like to be frank and say that not all but many studies are staged in simulated environments and teaching someone to use an iPad for communication needs in a clinical setting may seem as a good first step for learning . However, I was an experienced trainer and Developmental Educator and I understood how to allow for the natural pauses, implement discrete training in public and educate others as needed. Earlier I said the participant became my hero – this was because he was out of his comfort zone yet he willingly tried most weeks to use his iPad to increase his communication with others.  It was a privilege to be a part of the momentum of using new (at the time) technology and it was actually happening in real time in real situations. As we used Talking Mats when planning the intervention, there was a  clear understanding of what he liked to do when attending day programs. It was well worth taking that step, it is a person-centred planning tool that worked. The participant was set up for success from the beginning, the rest was practice, trial and error and courage on his half.  I am genuinely excited to share these findings. Stay tuned for more research findings complete with everyday practical speak explained in the next blog. If you are interested in reading the actual research thesis then please contact me [email protected]  

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