Several children and youths living in Trondheim have communication difficulties due to conditions such as Cerebral palsy, Autism spectrum disorders, or Down syndrome. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Thus, it is particularly important to promote the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems to enable all humans to communicate. In Norway, laws, and regulations (such as Opplæringsloven and Barnehageloven) confirm the right to use AAC systems for children with communication difficulties who completely or partially lack functional speech. In Trondheim municipality, various sectors and professions are involved in the provision of AAC system for children with communication difficulties. Still, many children receive AAC systems late, probably due to fragmented and unclear routines for referrals and follow-up. This project will therefore explore to what extent children with communication difficulties, who rely on AAC-systems, have opportunities to learn and explore their way of communicating in everyday life. We will investigate this through a survey distributed to kindergartens and schools in Trondheim. In addition, we will examine which routines and methods that work best to promote learning in the use of AAC systems for children and young people with communication difficulties. We will investigate this in two ways: (1) explore special educators' experiences of using a targeted method (Goal Attainment scaling) to teach the children and people around them to use AAC, and (2) ask children and young people who use AAC about their experiences around what worked well and what should be changed to promote competent use of AAC in everyday life. Our hope is that the answers we find will shed light on the important work that must be done to ensure that all children and young people have their opinions and feelings heard.
According to International Human Rights Law, the freedom of expression and opinion is a human right. This underscores the importance of promoting the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems that enable all humans to communicate. Providing good services to children with communication difficulties aligns with three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (goals 3, 4 and 10), as well as the goals of the Department of Upbringing and Education in Trondheim. In addition, it is one the focus areas in the Developmental agreement plan for the Occupational Therapy Unit in Trondheim. Further research on effective implementation methods for AAC systems and the development of an interdisciplinary service course is therefore important, to ensure timely and individualized follow-up when providing AAC systems for children with communication difficulties living in Trondheim.
This PhD-proposal aims to provide evidence-based information that can contribute to more effective and predictable implementation of AAC systems for children and youths with communication difficulties. The project's primary goals are firstly to investigate the prevalence of children with communication difficulties living in Trondheim, to better understand the population's composition and needs. Secondly, we will investigate Special education teachers’ experiences (pros and cons) with implementing AAC systems using the Goal Attainment Scaling method.?Lastly, we aim to explore the perspectives and experiences from children and youths using AAC systems for communication to obtain their perspectives on which factors that contribute to effective implementation and follow-up.?Based on the knowledge acquired through these studies, the end result of this project is to create an interdisciplinary service course to ensure more timely and resource effective interdisciplinary cooperation in the process of implementing AAC systems for children with communication difficulties.