A study into the perceptions of Speech and Language Therapists on the use of Objects of Reference with Adults with a Learning Disability
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: Objects of Reference (OoR) are used to increase communication in individuals with learning disabilities, primarily those who have profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). Limited evidence has been published to suggest its efficacy in this field. Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) experience first-hand the barriers to alternative and augmentative communication. They are also the ones who can best identify facilitators of its use. SLT’s perceptions on the use of OoR may be vital to improving practices related to their use with adults with learning disabilities. Aims: To investigate SLTs perceptions of using OoR; if they are working and with what client groups and to reveal the barriers and facilitators of their use. Methods and procedures: Two focus groups were conducted using semi-structured interview questions with a total of 9 SLTs who work in the field of adults with learning disabilities. The data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Emergent themes relating to OoR and the barriers and facilitators of their use were examined. Outcomes and results: Analysis revealed five superordinate themes relating to the use of OoR; difficulties implementing and maintaining their use, service constraints such as resources and consistency of staff, appropriateness of OoR and use with other conditions, difficulties determining outcome measures and evidence base and SLT’s overall opinion towards OoR. Conclusions & Implications: The length of time OoR take to be implemented and maintained by SLTs and support staff is a significant barrier to its success. This has led to difficulties in determining long term outcome measures. Support staff have been shown to be a key determinant in the success of OoR and they can be facilitated by instilling an understanding of the value of OoR and supported with regular input from SLTs. OoR have also shown to be used successfully with individuals with learning disabilities and other conditions such as dementia to facilitate communication. Finally, it suggests objects of the environment may be a more appropriate form of intervention for individuals with PMLD if the necessary training and continued input from SLTs is unavailable for OoR. Abstract structured in the style of The International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. What this paper adds? This paper examines some of the barriers and facilitators of OoR and highlights their use with adults with learning disabilities and other conditions. Further research is needed but this paper begins to explore how practices related to OoR and their use with adults with learning disabilities can be improved.
B.Sc. (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy
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