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Increasing the Communicative Opportunities and Skills of Young People with Multiple Physical and Sensory Disabilities

Research Stream
  • Tamzin Gribble (Dame Hannah Rogers Trust)
  • Allegra Cattani (Plymouth University)
  • Ruth Firth (Dame Hannah Rogers Trust)
  • Lauren Carroll (Plymouth University)

The main aim was to increase the communicative opportunities of young people who are non-verbal, and have multiple physical, sensory and learning difficulties. Our secondary aim was to investigate whether increased Augmentative and Alternative Communication, particularly Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA) use, led to improved cognitive abilities.


Targeted fourteen AAC users at Dame Hannah Rogers Trust (10-25yrs). Repeated measures designed to investigate:

  • The perceptions of AAC users’ primary care givers regarding VOCA use (questionnaire)
  • Actual VOCA usage (data logging)
  • The young people’s IQ score (Leiter-R cognitive assessment), pre- and post-adapted ‘You Matter’ training intervention intended to build the knowledge, confidence and effectiveness of VOCA interactions of primary care givers.  


Research scheduled to finish in July 2013. Preliminary findings are positive: VOCAs are not being used as much as they could be, so there is potential for increased use. Primary care givers reacted positively to the ‘You Matter’ training and their involvement in increasing communication opportunities.


Predicted conclusions: We hope to show that through the inclusion, encouragement and training of primary care givers, effective VOCA interactions are achieved and increased during free-time, leading to a better quality of life for VOCA users.