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Can AAC ever be effective?

  • Joan Murphy

This was one of the questions given to me at my PhD defence earlier this year! In this presentation I would like to consider some of the issues which I believe are pertinent to it and hopefully may trigger some thoughts and provoke discussion.

I will begin by looking at the origins of AAC in the 1980’s and how, despite its early promise, AAC did not appear to meet the needs of people who use AAC. I will then consider the purposes of communication by comparing the models of Light (1988) and Locke (1998) and illustrate these with different communication situations. I will also discuss some of the problems of the definitions of effectiveness of AAC systems in the literature.

Finally I will suggest one way to try to measure what makes human communication effective.

About the speaker

After graduating from the Glasgow School of Speech Therapy in 1972, Joan studied for her Masters Degree in Linguistics at the University of Reading. She worked with VSO as a speech therapist in Malaysia for two years before returning to Scotland to work in Glasgow and Forth Valley. She specialised in augmentative and alternative communication methods and since 1997 worked part time as Senior Specialist Speech and Language Therapist with a Community Rehabilitation Team with people with a range of communication difficulties.

In 1989 she began working as a researcher at the University of Stirling and worked on 21 research projects focusing on communication disability. Joan’s regards communication as a collaborative effort between communication partners. Her work focuses on finding ways of helping people with speech disability and their communication partners to communicate in the most effective way. She places a great deal of emphasis on the links between research and clinical practice and on producing practical outcomes from her research.

In 1998 Joan developed an innovative low-tech communication tool called Talking Mats, which is a visual framework that uses picture symbols to help people with a communication difficulty understand and respond more effectively. Since then she has carried out a number of related and interlinked projects using the Talking Mats framework with different client groups and for different purposes. The findings from these projects have been published widely and the Talking Mats framework is now used increasingly by clinicians and other researchers. 

In November 2009 she was appointed as Research Manager at the Talking Mats Research and Development Centre at the University of Stirling.

In January 2010 Joan received her PhD in Medical Sciences at Radboud University, Nijmegen in the Netherlands. The title of her thesis is Talking Mats®: A study of communication difficulties and the feasibility and effectiveness of a low-tech communication framework

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All Ages