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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Children with speech, language and communication needs
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Assistive Technologies, Volume 5, Issue 4
This special issue of the Journal of Assistive Technologies focuses on the use of assistive communication technologies by children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), their communication partners, and the services that support them. It is appearing in the National Year of Speech Language and Communication (2011) which was proposed following The Review of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. The review had been commissioned by the then Labour government and carried out by John Bercow. The National Year of Speech and Language has provided an important opportunity to raise public awareness of SLCN and many readers will be aware of the “Hello” and the “Giving Voice” campaigns.
For the purpose of this issue, assistive communication technology is being defined as any device, system, service or strategy that aims to support and enhance children and young people’s spoken and/or written communication. Therefore, assistive communication technology covers: simple or complex voice output communication aids (also referred to as speech generating devices), paper-based communication systems, such as books or charts and information and communication technology to support reading and/or writing. Those who use assistive communication technology and their carers rely on a range of professionals for the assessment process before any technology is introduced, and then they will be supported by a number of professionals as children and their families seek to adapt to the demands and opportunities provided by communication tools, and develop their skills in this area. This means that anyone working in this field is likely to be part of a multi-disciplinary team with members from education, social care and health. The work will also take place in a variety of settings for example, in homes, schools, hospitals and social care environments.
Our definition of assistive communication technology was deliberately broad in order to capture something of the scope of work in this field. Papers in this edition include research papers, clinical case and service delivery reports as well as papers with a technical focus. While the papers are varied certain common themes are evident beyond the fact that they focus on children and young people’s communication.
Clarke and colleagues, present a research paper examining young people’s expectations for, and early response to, the provision of new communication aid technology. Interviews with young people focused on the relations between communication aid provision and children’s ability to carry out certain communication-focused activities, and their experience of participation in everyday activities. The study highlights unforeseen positive and negative views in relation to their expectations and outcomes of provision. Aspects of the nature of interpersonal interaction involving communication aid use are also examined in papers by Thunberg and colleagues, and Bailey and Bunning. Thunberg’s detailed case study is an informative evaluation of an intervention, and is a valuable addition to research concerned with communication aid use by children with autism spectrum disorder. Thunberg’s use of activity based communication analysis provides an insightful approach to capturing factors affecting variation in interaction observed in differing contexts. Bailey provides an analysis of aspects of interpersonal interaction between an adult and child using a communication aid in the construction of a fictional narrative, drawing attention to the multimodal character of interpersonal interaction and communication aid use. Bailey’s work is, in part, motivated by issues related to language development in non-speaking children provided with communication aids. Little is known about the way in which children with little or no functional speech who are provided with communication aids develop language. In exploring the development of working memory, a key contributor to cognitive and linguistic development, in children with cerebral palsy and communication difficulties, Murray and Goldbart’s paper in this special edition is an important contribution to knowledge in this area.
The theme of unanticipated response to communication aid provision, despite careful assessment of need raised by Clarke and colleagues, is echoed in Sherlock’s longitudinal case report. Sherlock chronicles the response of one young person and their support team to the introduction of a range of communication aid options over a number of years. This informative paper highlights the local team’s decision-making in relation to a shifting profile of child and environmental variables that come into play as the child and local team determine readiness for a range of communication aid options. Establishing effective processes for multi-agency decision-making in the context of service delivery is a central motivation for Griffiths and Price’s innovative paper. Drawing on the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, Griffiths and Price present a novel framework to support professionals in examining their own perspective in relation to communication support for children, while acknowledging similarities and differences between their own views, and the views of families and other professionals.
Judge and Friday provide a thought provoking paper stimulated by a concern that, in their decision making, professionals perhaps overlook the possible benefits of ambiguous keyboards for young people with communication disabilities, despite being developed with the assistive technology field. While Judge and Friday seek to reinvigorate the potential use of established technology, Capuano and colleagues, describe a new project aimed at supporting deaf young people to access and use e-learning. They outline the project’s theoretical underpinnings, including reference to embodied cognition/semantics, and storytelling, to inform the development of visual-based web environments.
The National Year of Speech and Language is an important milestone in recognising the significance of effective and ongoing support for children and young people with communication difficulties, and the critical role that assistive communication technology can and should play in promoting children’s participation in society. To that end we hope that you find this collection of papers stimulating and informative. Finally, we are grateful to the contributors and the anonymous reviewers who generously contributed their time and expertise to this issue.
Michael Clarke Lecturer at University College London, London, UK
Jannet WrightJannet Wright is a Professor at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.