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Mothers' Views of the Communication Skills of Maltese Children who use AAC

Research Stream
  • Marica Gatt (Tizard Centre, University of Kent)

The purpose of this research was to explore the current modes of communication of children with complex communication needs (CCNs) as perceived by their mothers. It also examined how children are using their various modes of communication and how their various behaviours are being interpreted.


Mothers of 50 children with complex communication needs (CCNs) were interviewed about the communication skills of their children. A survey design through the use of telephone interviews was undertaken.


Children with CCNs utilise a wide range of multimodal techniques and communicative functions as part of an AAC system. These were described as used in interactions within the family, educational and community settings. Medium to high tech AAC devices were used less when interacting with familiar communication partners. Mothers expressed preferences for and encouraged unaided means of communication. They reported a varied range of behaviours, ranging from pre-intentional and pre-symbolic behaviour to more symbolic and conventional communication systems.


These findings have implications on how mothers perceive and interpret the various communication modes of their children. It is important that family members are involved in the planning and implementation of intervention programs within the family environment.


  • Cress, C. J. (2004). Augmentative and alternative communication and language: Understanding and responding to parents' perspectives. Topics in Language Disorders, 24(1), 51-61
  • Pennington, L., & McConachie, H. (1999) Mother-child interaction revisited: Communication with non-speaking physically disabled children. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 34(4), 391-416
  • Stephenson, J., & Dowrick, M. (2005) Parents' perspectives on the communication skills of their children with severe disabilities. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 30(2), 75-85
Level of Session 
Age Group 
Primary school
Secondary school
Special school