The ability to communicative effectively is often restricted for children with Down syndrome (DS). This study aimed to explore the experiences of multi-modal communication for a child with DS and her communication partners and to understand the facilitators and challenges in being a multi-modal communicator.
This study followed a solely qualitative design, in order to gain insight into the participants’ views, opinions, feelings and beliefs about being a multi-modal communicator (Hicks 2009). This study incorporated the lived experience of the person and the real nature of her methods of communication. An exploratory design was chosen for this research project as it is flexible which allowed exploration and expansion of emerging ideas (Fitzpatrick and Kazer 2011).
Following purposive sampling the child aged 7years, her parents, her sisters, her teddy bear and her teacher each took part in semi-structured interviews. Two observations also took place; one at home and one in school. All interactions were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.
Four themes emerged with related subthemes: Theme 1: ’The way we are’ (Subthemes include reasons for communication and multiple methods). Theme 2: What makes communication work? (Subthemes include knowing, creativity, key word signing, promotion of a communication friendly and teamwork). Theme 3: The experience (Subthemes include happiness, communication breakdown and determination). Theme 4: What’s missing? (Subthemes include vocabulary, abstract language and awareness in the general public).
Qualitatively examining the perceptions of the child and her communication partners established a holistic view of their communication. The child’s personification of her teddy allowed the researcher to gain a deeper understanding of her communication. The emerging themes showed the variety of methods used to communicate and how communication was supported and challenged. This research shows that including children with DS is both possible and rewarding.