Perceptions and experiences of New Zealand school speech-language therapists on aided language input as an augmentative and alternative communication intervention : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Speech Language Therapy at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Speech-language therapists (SLT) play a key role in providing intervention for students with complex communication needs (CCN) who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Aided language input is one approach to intervention that involves the communication partner modelling the use of the student’s communication system during both natural and structured interactions. AAC intervention studies have explored the effects of aided language input on the language and communication skills of individuals who use AAC; many of these interventions involving communication partner instruction. However, there are only a few studies that explore the perceptions and experiences of SLTs on AAC in their clinical practice. Given the key role of SLTs in AAC intervention, and the importance of providing communication partner instruction, this research examined the perceptions and experiences of SLTs in New Zealand on aided language input as an AAC intervention in the school setting. The research participants were SLTs who currently work in school settings and who provide ongoing support to students with CCN who are using or learning to use AAC. A convergent mixed methods research design was used in the study. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected using an online survey with an option of being contacted to participate in a semi-structured interview. Interviews were conducted via Zoom and recorded for later transcription and analysis. The information from the survey and the interview were analysed separately and then integrated and reported together. The findings suggested that SLTs strongly believe in the importance of aided language input as an AAC intervention. The SLTs described how they implement and support others to implement aided language input and which practices they feel are most effective. They also identified facilitators and barriers to effective implementation which are team members’ attitudes, knowledge, skill levels, beliefs and perceptions, and other factors, for example, time, staffing, management support, SLT roles and caseload, AAC systems and funding. In the interview, SLTs identified the support they believe is needed to effectively implement aided language input. This included time, funding, management support and training and supervision. The study documented current practices and also informed best practice for SLTs in school settings in the New Zealand context. Furthermore, it raised the importance of AAC education at university level and confirmed the need for collaboration and ongoing professional learning and development for SLTs and AAC team members.