Establishing Context: AAC Device Adoption and Support in a Special-Education Setting

Christopher S. Norrie, Annalu Waller, Elizabeth F. S. Hannah

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Current mechanisms for adopting and supporting high-tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) within special-education appear limited in their success, despite recognition of the potential benefits they represent for young emerging communicators. Prior research in this field has been restricted to discrete survey or interview methodologies. We present a five-month mixed-methods ethnographic study in a special-education school to explore the facilitators and barriers experienced by those using technology, with children who have little or no functional speech, to stimulate communication and language comprehension. Our analysis supports the outcomes of earlier studies, but also furnishes novel insights into the scale and urgency of addressing the problem - with implications for user-centred design within this community. We highlight infrastructure, policy, and recruitment deficits, and propose a two-fold solution: (i) an increase in engagement with this population through the provision of enhanced, user-centred support; and (ii) induction of the cross-disciplinary role of Assistive Technologist, to serve as mediator between teacher, aided communicator, and their assistive technology. This work represents a contribution towards establishing more effective operational, interactional, and pedagogical support for learners using high-tech communication devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • augmentative and alternative communication
  • assistive technology
  • special-education
  • human-computer interaction
  • user-centred design
  • language acquisition
  • early intervention
  • Augmentative and alternative communication; assistive technology; special-education; human-computer interaction; user-centred design; language acquisition; early intervention


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