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Professionals’ and parents’ shared learning in blended learning networks related to communication and augmentative and alternative communication for people with severe disabilities

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People with severe disabilities (SD) communicate in complex ways, and their teachers, parents and other involved professionals find it difficult to gain knowledge and share their experiences regarding the person with SD’s communication methods. The purpose of this study is to contribute to our understanding of how parents and professionals share learning about communication and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for people with SD by participating in blended learning networks (BLNs). Thirty-six parents and professionals participated in online web-based BLNs according to a prepared format; four groups were formed, and all of the groups participated in four discussion sessions and an evaluation session. Detailed minutes from the 16 BLN sessions, an evaluation session and course evaluation data were thematically analysed. The theoretical frameworks were different perspectives on disability within communication research and special education research, and theories about shared learning in networks. The analyses revealed themes that focused on communication partners’ knowledge, attitudes and strategies regarding communicating with people with SD; the importance and power of using multimodal AAC; and the universality, user-friendliness and empowering aspects of iPads and apps. The findings suggest that participants perceive communication and AAC with people with SD from relational, dialogical and interactional perspectives, whereas the categorical perspective was less pronounced. In accordance with other professional competence research, the use of online web-based BLNs with mixed groups that was described in this paper yielded positive evaluations from the participants. The opportunity for meeting others involved in caring for people with SD, the actual blended groups and the sharing of technology and AAC experiences in particular were highlighted.
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Keywords: augmentative and alternative communication; blended learning networks; parents; perspectives on disability; professionals; severe disabilities

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Education, Culture and Communication, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden 2: Department of Health & Caring Sciences, Swedish Family Care Competence Centre, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden

Publication date: July 3, 2015

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