Let me be understood: A behavioural investigation of effective functional communication skills within a New Zealand special education high school.
Bourke, T. (2020). Let me be understood: A behavioural investigation of effective functional communication skills within a New Zealand special education high school. (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13961
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13961
Effective functional communication skills are socially significant behaviours that afford individuals the ability to self-advocate and realise their full range of human rights. The aim of this study was to describe communication skills observed within a New Zealand special education high school routine with three female students (who had previous experience with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems), and the responses provided by staff, within a verbal behaviour framework. In-person naturalistic observations using event-recording procedures were conducted over 18 total hours and 432 total communicative episodes were documented. Communicative episodes were described congruous with Skinner’s (1957) account of verbal operants and rates were calculated. Data related to antecedent conditions that occasioned episodes and students’ use of communication skills including the function and mode of communication were included. Staff responses to student initiations were assessed as being functionally appropriate matches. Overall, students were involved in approximately 25 communicative episodes per hour that were primarily opportunities to respond, with the exception of one student, and one opportunity to initiate was observed during the entire study. Communicative episodes predominantly occurred with adults, and students used vocals or gestures but rarely AAC systems, during episodes that were most often coded with tact or intraverbal functions. Staff presented additional prompts, mostly using aided AAC systems, during the majority of opportunities to respond they presented. Just over half of staff responses to student initiations were assessed as potentially matching the communicative function. A verbal behaviour discussion of key findings and theoretical and educational implications for practice is provided. Strengths and limitations of this study are identified, and future research is suggested.
The University of Waikato
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