Mentoring to support people learning to use speech generating devices (summary)


Background People who are given speech generating devices (SGDs) do not always go on to communicate effectively with them. This might be due to a number of factors, including lack of opportunity to observe other people using SGDs.

Few people who are beginning to use SGDs receive any input in the mode of communication they are expected to use.

What was the aim of the study? The aim was to investigate the outcome of mentoring by adults who used SGDs on mentees use of their own SGDs. To find out if mentoring led to an increase in the total number of words, the range of different words and the number of different grammatical markers used by the mentees.

What did the authors do? They selected three mentors and three mentees, all of whom used MINspeak systems on their SGDs.

They used the MINspeak Product Application and Software (PASS) Writing with icons feature to enable the mentees to see the icon sequences used by the mentor in conversation, and the Language Activity Monitoring (LAM) feature and videoing was used to collect data during the project.

Data was gathered over a 6 month period which included 4 phases: baseline, mentor training, intervention and generalisation of mentoring to a community setting.

The pairs of mentor and mentee took part in a number of 15 minute conversations, either about topics of their own choice or from a selection of pre-prepared resources. Measures of the identified variables were taken before and after mentor training and in the mentees school or disability centre and in a community location, a café or club.

The results indicated that the mentees who completed the intervention sessions showed a significant increase in the areas the number and range of words used and in interest in using their systems and developing strategies to repair communication breakdowns. There was a smaller increase in the number of grammatical markers used.

Caution: Only two of the three pairs completed all of the intervention sessions, the third pair completed 50% of the sessions. This was a very small sample and the results were mixed.

The use of PASS software means that this strategy can only be used by people using MINspeak systems.

Conclusions: The authors found preliminary evidence that mentoring could be beneficial for people beginning to use SGDs. This should take place in addition to speech and language therapy input. They indicate that the use of grammatical markers, particularly, requires specific teaching.

Added to site March 2014