Speech Language Pathologists’ (SLPs) Knowledge and Use of Factors Found in Research to Predict, Moderate, and Mediate Response to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Intervention for Children with Autism

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
S. B. Sievers1, D. Trembath2 and M. Westerveld3, (1)Allied Health, Griffith University, West End, Australia, (2)Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University, Australia, (3)Allied Health, Griffith University, Southport, Australia
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may experience a wide range of communication difficulties, with as many as 30% of children receiving comprehensive early intervention programs commencing school unable to speak in sentences (Rose, Trembath, Keen, Paynter, 2016). Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) interventions have the potential to enhance communication skills. However, implementing AAC interventions is challenging due to the heterogeneous population, limited AAC training for speech-language pathologists (SLPs), a lack of research evidence regarding what works for whom and why, and the research to clinic gap. Research has identified factors that predict, moderate, and mediate AAC intervention outcomes for children with ASD, however, it is unknown is if SLPs have knowledge of these factors and if these factors are used in their clinical practice.

The aims of this study were to (a) investigate SLPs knowledge and use of factors that predict, moderate, and mediate AAC intervention outcomes for children with ASD and (b) to identify additional factors that SLPs believe warrant further research.

A mixed methods survey using close and open-ended questions was distributed internationally to certified SLPs who have experience working with children with ASD and AAC interventions. SLPs were recruited through professional organizations in Australia, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom; online communities (e.g., AAC for SLPs); and through the research team’s professional network. Survey questions were based on a systematic review of factors that predict, moderate, and mediate outcomes to AAC for ASD. Questions investigated SLPs’ knowledge and use of these factors as well as their views on where future research should be focused and barriers to implementing best practice in AAC interventions.

The survey, which opened in September 2017, yielded 176 responses within the first two weeks. The survey will close in November 2017, and the results will be presented. Preliminary data analysis indicates that SLPs had knowledge of the 18 factors presented, with an average clinician rating for “great extent/very familiar” and “some knowledge” was 35.76% and 40.65% respectively. High rating included communication competence, joint attention, and frequency of AAC Exposure and low rating included duration of therapy session, motor skills, and duration of therapy session. Preliminary data also indicated that clinicians consider these 18 factors found in research when making decisions in clinical practice. Of the 18 factors, the average clinician rating for “frequently consider” was 56.69% and “sometimes consider” 26.76%. High ratings for frequently consider were AAC input at school, motor skills, and frequency of AAC exposure and low ratings were duration of therapy session, age of therapy onset, and chronological age. Additional factors clinicians indicated were important included motivation of AAC user and communication partner.

Based on preliminary data collected to date, the majority SLPs were familiar, and took into consideration factors identified in research that may predict, moderate, and mediate AAC intervention outcomes when working with children with ASD. However, further research is needed to examine clinician-identified factors which to date have not been investigated in research.