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Increasing functional communication for individuals with an intellectual disability using picture exchange communication system in a disability residential setting

Individuals who are diagnosed with a developmental disorder may find it difficult to communicate functionally, which limits their ability to have their needs met and their thoughts respected. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) interventions such as, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) aim to provide a way for individuals with functional communication deficits to communicate their needs. A small number of studies have explored whether direct caregivers can be trained to implement PECS for adult clients with a developmental delay, who reside in a disability residential flat. This study aims to investigate the effectiveness of Behavioural Skills Training (BST), delivered remotely, for training support staff to implement PECS in a disability residential setting. The effect of PECS on functional communication for the client is also evaluated. Staff participants took part in training sessions using BST procedures. Once staff participants had achieved 80% accuracy during training, PECS implementation sessions began with the staff and client participants. Training and implementation sessions were delivered remotely, via video conferencing software. The results of this research indicate that direct caregivers can be trained to implement PECS in a disability residential flat, with all staff participants maintaining a high level of accuracy throughout training and implementation. Training and implementation data showed increased functional communication acts for the client participant as he learned to use PECS to mand for items and activities. However, this change was not reflected in the data gained at generalisation and follow-up sessions. In conclusion, this research provides evidence to support BST as an effective practice for training caregivers to implement PECS in a disability residential setting. Further, PECS may also be an effective intervention for increasing functional communication for individuals with a developmental delay and communication deficits.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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