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Youth who use AAC articulate beliefs regarding the value of inclusion: implications for practice

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Aim: Inclusion is an over-arching goal underpinning AAC practice. Yet, conceptualizations of inclusion remain largely unexamined and there is evidence that some types of inclusion can, unintentionally, contribute to marginalization or other harms for people with disabilities. This study examined the effects of social beliefs regarding inclusion on the everyday lives of youth who use AAC. Method: A critical qualitative design combined visual methods (participant-generated photos and graphic elicitation) with interviews to generate data with 13 Canadian youth who use AAC (aged 14 – 24) about their daily routines, social networks, personal geographies and material environments. Youths’ accounts were interpreted in relation to broader socially ingrained beliefs and meanings ascribed to disability and the notion of inclusion. Results: Youth felt most included at home and with family. When ‘included’ in mainstream settings, youth often felt unsafe and stigmatised. Thus, they worked to downplay their differences or avoided these places altogether. When ‘excluded’ in segregated social settings, participants reported a sense of inclusion. They had come to regard the limits imposed on them as necessary and logical. The youths’ accounts demonstrated they had internalized negative attitudes towards disability and alternative communication modes and judged themselves accordingly. Still, the youth also resisted negative evaluations of their worth in important ways to create positive spaces of inclusion on their own terms. Conclusion: The results highlight the agency of youth who use AAC and have implications for AAC research and practice especially in relation to the need for more nuanced understandings of inclusion.

Author(s):

Gail Teachman    
University of Toronto
Canada

 

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