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Do Students Really Need Communication Devices? Paraprofessionals’ Perspectives on AAC and Interaction

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Aim
Paraprofessionals (i.e., educational aids) play an important role in integrating learners with disabilities into general education classrooms. The current study explored paraprofessionals’ perspectives on barriers to the successful use of communication devices in educational settings. The following research questions were addressed: What are paraprofessionals’ perspectives on (a) barriers to the successful use of communication devices in the educational setting, and (b) the importance of communication interaction between students who use AAC and various potential communication partners?
Method
Surveys were distributed to 73 paraprofessionals employed at the participating schools. Twenty-six participants (35.62% of the total sample) responded. Survey completion rate was more than 90%.
Results
Perceived Barriers to Learners’ Effective Use of Communication Devices: A majority of paraprofessionals reported the following barriers to the use of communication devices in educational settings: (a) learners can communicate their needs in other ways and (b) a lack of available time and training.
Perceived Importance of Communication Interaction Between Learners and Various Partners: The communication partner most often rated as “very important” for the learners who use AAC was educational staff who are familiar with the learner (80.8%), followed by the paraprofessionals themselves (73.1%). Communicating with peers and people in the community was rated as least important.
Conclusion
Working to overcome barriers and increase interaction will help paraprofessionals and educational teams provide better interventions to learners with severe communication disabilities who use AAC.

Author(s):

Deanna Morrow    
St Paul Public Schools
United States

Mo Chen    
University of MN Twin Cities
United States

Jolene Hyppa-Martin    
University of MN Duluth
United States

 

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