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Use of key word signing for children and adults with intellectual disability in an Irish context

Áine Byrne (Speech and Language Therapists based at Cope Foundation, Cork, Ireland)
Jenna Pyne (Speech and Language Therapists based at Cope Foundation, Cork, Ireland)
Vanessa Sheehan (Speech and Language Therapists based at Cope Foundation, Cork, Ireland)

Tizard Learning Disability Review

ISSN: 1359-5474

Article publication date: 1 August 2019

Issue publication date: 13 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Lámh is the Irish approach to key word signing (KWS). It was designed to support children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) (including people with autism) and/or communication needs in Ireland. The purpose of this paper is to determine the level of Lámh use in a large organisation for children and adults with IDD and identify factors influencing use.

Design/methodology/approach

An online questionnaire was distributed to 950 staff members in the aforementioned organisation.

Findings

The response rate was 23 per cent (n = 217), with the majority of respondents indicating a belief that all staff should know some key signs (96 per cent) and that Lámh has a positive impact on communication (89 per cent). In sum, 18 per cent of staff who supported a Lámh user reported that they rarely or never use signs. There was a significant association between client group (children or adults) and frequency of Lámh use by staff, with greater use reported in children’s services.

Research limitations/implications

Overall, a positive attitude towards Lámh was identified amongst staff within the organisation. Despite this, there is evidence of inadequate support for Lámh users, particularly in adult services. Identified barriers which impacted the implementation of Lámh included inconsistencies in organisational culture, levels of support and access to training. A consistent Lámh signing environment is crucial to the successful use of Lámh as a communication method. This study suggests that the level of support required to create a consistent signing environment may be underestimated.

Originality/value

This is the first study to evaluate the reported use of key word sign in an Irish disability setting. The findings will be of benefit to any staff members supporting KWS users and, in particular, those involved in the provision of KWS training.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful for the support received from the Lámh Office and Cope Foundation in the completion of this study. Further thanks to all the staff members of Cope Foundation who participated in the study. The Lámh research and development committee awarded the researchers a bursary as part of a Lámh research initiative. The views expressed are those of the authors and are independent of the Lámh development office.

Citation

Byrne, Á., Pyne, J. and Sheehan, V. (2019), "Use of key word signing for children and adults with intellectual disability in an Irish context", Tizard Learning Disability Review, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 113-120. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLDR-07-2018-0023

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited