I lead the local AAC service in Gloucestershire; part of the adult speech and language therapy service. We assess and provide basic communication aids such as low-tech, paper-based systems as well as some more high-tech devices that use synthetic speech to ‘speak’ messages entered into them. In a quest to improve our service, I became interested in finding out how we could develop the support that we provide to people in need of communication aids. I also wanted to understand more about individual’s experiences of using them.
I secured funding from Health Education England South West to take some time out from my clinical work to delve into the world of research and hunt for some answers. A literature search uncovered limited information about why some people use communication aids effectively and others do not; nor what ‘successful communication’ means to people who rely on communication aids and what they feel best supports them to achieve this. I interviewed services users who each reported very different views on successful communication aid use. By the end of the internship, I had generated more questions than I had answered.
I chose to apply to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for funding to carry out further research into the perspectives of users of communication aids. I started my PhD in April 2017 with Sheffield Hallam University. My project aims to develop a greater understanding about why people do and do not use communication aids and how they view success with using them. I am really looking forward to working closely with people who use communication aids and their friends, families and carers throughout this project.
Katherine Broomfield (HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Fellow)
(This is an exert from an original blog post published on the Barnsley Assistive Technology Team Blog)