New Zealand speech-language therapists' perceptions and experiences of supporting preschool children with complex communication needs : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Speech-Language Therapy at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Communication allows a person to express their thoughts and feelings and
participate fully in life. It is a basic human right. Children with complex communication
needs (CCN) also have this right and require early access to augmentative and
alternative communication (AAC) to support their development of language and
communication skills. This study employed a descriptive cross-sectional survey design
to gather insight into the perceptions and experiences of speech-language therapists
supporting preschool children with CCN in New Zealand.
The survey was completed by 61 speech-language therapists working in early
intervention. There were a number of key findings. Only 37% of the participants
reported that they used AAC with all of the children with CCN on their caseloads. In
terms of their education and competence in AAC, 74% of participants said that their
qualification did not include a paper on AAC and 57% rated their competence in AAC as
being at the novice level. Team attitudes, lack of specialist support and inconsistent use
of the system were the most frequently reported barriers. Whereas, team members’
willingness to try, supportive teams and education of those involved were the most
frequently reported facilitators to AAC implementation.
This study revealed the need for more education and support for speechlanguage
therapists working in early intervention with children with CCN. This support is
essential to help these children to develop the language and communication skills
needed to participate fully in society, education and work.