2003 Conference Proceedings

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SOCIAL NETWORKS: A PLANNING AND TRACKING TOOL FOR PEOPLE WITH COMMUNICATION CHALLENGES

Presenters
Authors
Sarah W. Blackstone, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Inc.
1 Surf Way, #237
Monterey, CA

Mary Hunt Berg, Ph.D.
The Bridge School
545 Eucalyptus Ave.
Hillsborough, CA 94010

Elisa Kingsbury, M.S.
The Bridge School
545 Eucalyptus Ave.
Hillsborough, CA 94010

Nicole Liboiron, M.S.
University of California - Berkeley
The Bridge School
545 Eucalyptus Ave.
Hillsborough, CA 94010

Individuals with severe communication challenges have different skills and abilities, needs and expectations. Each person's need for assistive technology and communication strategies changes over time, and depends, at any one time, on a myriad of factors related to the person, context, task and available intervention approaches.

The importance of communication partners in the lives of individuals who rely on AAC is long recognized as important within the field of AAC. Yet clinical research regarding characteristics of communication partners and communication partner training has received little attention.

We know that the success of AAC intervention deepens on a multiplicity of factors, but we really do not have an efficient or effective way to describe or track the complexity of factors over time. To date, AAC professionals have had few tools with which to consider the social and cultural contexts within which individuals who rely on AAC live and function even though there is wide recognition that these dimensions are important to interventions that focus on functional communication outcomes. (Harry, Rueda, Kalyanpur, 1999)

Social Networks is a clinically useful tool that uses several paradigms to help clinicians establish functional communication goals and track progress over time. It is conceptually grounded in a sociocultural perspective and family systems theory and reflects widely accepted paradigms such as the Participation model (Beukelman and Mirenda, 199). This session will present the assessment tool (Social Networks) and provide case examples of its use. Presenters will discuss how the tool helps identify an individual's communication partners, modes of communication, communication needs and functional communication goals. The session also will present some ongoing research underway in the U.S. and internationally that demonstrates the utility and effectiveness of the tool with different clinical populations. Presenters will discuss observed trends in the use of AAC technologies across the age span and disabilities based on these data.

Social Networks is typically administered to an adult or child who is able to participate and uses AAC technique (if possible), and a family member and a professional. The tool utilizes Circles of Communication Partners (CCP) (Blackstone, 1999), adapted from Marsha Forest's Circle of Friends (Forest & Snow) and further modified by the Berkeley Study Group (Blackstone, Hunt Berg, Soto, Liboirin, Kingsbury, Dowden, Wrenn, 2001).

The CCP paradigm places the augmented communicator at the center. Emanating outward are five circles, which represent different types of communication partners (and relationships) as described below:

The purpose of the CCP-AAC is to gather information about augmented communicators and their communication partners, i.e., the people with whom they interact (or would like to interact) on a regular basis. The tool can be applied in many different ways. For example, the CCP is useful in: (1) establishing a baseline for intervention. (2) helping to set clinical goals; (3) facilitating collaboration among team members to assist in setting priorities for intervention; (4) identifying change over time; (5) teaching about the role of multi-modalities and the importance of communication partners in the design of intervention strategies; (6) identifying the contexts that require the use of AAC devices and (7.) identifying who needs training in the use of AAC techniques and strategies.

Data show that it is common for augmented communicators to have many people in their first and fourth circles and few people in other circles. Obviously, having limited access to language makes interaction more difficult and hinders the development and maintenance of friendships. Also, augmented communicators with limited mobility may have fewer opportunities for interaction, participation and independence. Data also show that the use of AAC technologies differ across circles and depend upon a myriad of factors, including some that are culturally influenced. The presenters also will discuss implications for partner training, clinical and research applications.

References

Beukelman, D. & Mirenda, P. (1998). Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Management of severe communication disorders in children and adults (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Brookes.

Blackstone, S. (1991). Interaction with the partner's of AAC consumers: Part I - Interaction. Augmentative Communication News. 4:2, 1-3.

Blackstone, S., Hunt Berg, M., Soto, G. Augmented Communicators and their Communication Partners. Presented at 10th Biennial ISAAC Conference, Odense, Denmark, August, 2002.

Dowden, P.A. (1999). Augmentative & Alternative Communication for Children with Motor Speech Disorders. In Caruso, A., and Strand, E. A. Eds.) Clinical Management of Motor Speech Disorders of Children. New York: Thieme Publishing Co.

Forest, M. & Snow, J. May's map. With a little help from my friends. A videotape. Expectations Unlimited. POB 655, Niwot, CO 80544

Harry, B., Rueda, R. & Kalyanpur, M. (1999). Cultural reciprocity in sociocultural perspective: Adapting the normalization principle for family collaboration. Exceptional Children: 66:1, 123-136.


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