Ask and I’ll Tell You: Involving children in the evaluation of devices



Research Stream

    • Seray Ibrahim (Whittington Health NHS Trust)
    • Dr. Michael Clarke (Developmental Science Dept, UCL)
    • Dr. Duncan Brumby (Interaction Centre, UCL)

Funding / Sponsorship:

Project formed part of a masters degree that was funded by Whittington Health NHS Trust.


This paper will present: (i) findings from a qualitative study of childen’s views concerning the design of their current grid based AAC systems compared with new visual scene display systems, and (ii) reflections on the process of using children as design informants.


Five children with severe speech and physical difficulties were interviewed on four occasions using direct questioning, indirect questioning and demo software trial sessions. Ficticious vignettes were used to elicit ideas about how another child may respond in a similar situation. All sessions were video recorded, transcribed and analysed using the principles of thematic analysis.


Children expressed clear opinions about their current AAC devices and were reluctant to criticise them. Their opinions were grouped into the themes; motivation and ownership; holding mixed views; their impact on participation and negative aspects. Children also shared wider views about their AAC systems, namely that their devices were just one part of their total communication system. The project also highlighted some considerations for seeking honest and representative opinions from children with complex communication needs.


Children with severe speech and physical impairments can and should be involved in the design and evaluation of computer systems that they rely on for communicating with others. Interview methods can greatly impact on what users share.

Level of Session


Age Group



Primary school
Secondary school
Special school
Further/Higher Ed.