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Experiences of people with Complex Communication Needs developing romantic or sexual relationships: Preliminary findings

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Aim: This PhD research project investigates the lived experiences of people with complex communication needs (CCN) in entering and sustaining romantic and sexual relationships. Since both the researcher and participants have CCN, a unique set of methodological issues needed to be considered. In this session these issues will be discussed and preliminary findings presented.

Method: Approximately twenty participants with congenital physical disabilities and CCN will be Interviewed, either face-to-face or using online video-conferencing (Skype), guided by core questions based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Their experiences through personal stories about developing romantic or sexual relationships will be gathered.

A Critical Hermeneutics phenomenological approach will be used to analyse participants’ stories. This approach aims to provide in depth understanding of the lived experience and to identify the cultural norms and social power the participants may experience. It also attempts to give voice to an arguably marginalised group.

Results: Preliminary findings of the research will be presented; in particular highlighting the facilitators and barriers participants describe in terms of developing and sustaining intimate relationships. The primary researcher will also discuss some of the main methodological issues arising from the fact that both he and the participants have CCN and how these were addressed.

Conclusion: The field of AAC stands to benefit greatly from the knowledge gained in this research project; both in terms of methodological issues and from the participants sharing their experiences.


Darryl Sellwood    
Flinders University of South Australia

Parimala Raghavendra    
Flinders University of South Australia

Paul Jewell    
Flinders University of South Australia

Ruth Walker    
Flinders University of South Australia


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