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Linguistic and Social Experience During an Online Mentoring Program for Young Adults Who Use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
MacDonald, Jenelle L
Supervisor and department
Adams, Kim (Rehabilitation Medicine)
Pollock, Karen (Communication Sciences and Disorders)
Examining committee member and department
McFarlane, Lu-Anne (Communication Sciences and Disorders)
Paslawski, Teresa (Communication Sciences and Disorders)
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Speech Language Pathology
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Master of Science
Degree level
Individuals who use speech generating communication devices (SGCDs) are described in the literature as having limited expressive linguistic competence due to limited functional practice, and limited skills in social competence due to limited social experience. Many individuals who use SGCDs in Alberta do not have access to services that provide linguistic and social intervention. Online mentoring programs have been developed for individuals who use SGCDs to address issues such as dealing with life transitions and to improve linguistic competence. These programs included training for mentors in either sociorelational and collaborative problem solving skills or language stimulation strategies such as asking open-ended questions. The AAC Mentoring Program developed for this study was focused on creating connections between individuals who use SGCDs while also providing a supportive linguistic and social experience. This study proposed to a) design, implement and evaluate an online mentoring program according to the Fit, Focus and Functionality framework, b) determine if the program was able to provide a supportive linguistic and social experience for the participants, and c) to evaluate the implementation and social experience of the program from the participants’ perspective. This exploratory study involved one mentor and one protégé. Language samples were collected from the protégé before and after the program. The pair interacted online for a total of 16 weeks. After the initial 5 weeks of baseline, the mentor completed role-plays to test her sociorelational skills and collaborative problem solving skills. Data regarding the implementation of the program, the linguistic and social competence of the protégé and the mentor, as well as information regarding their experience in the program were gathered. Results indicated that the online mentoring program 1) was able to address certain aspects of the Fit, Focus and Functionality framework, 2) provided a supportive linguistic experience by exposing the protégé to a good model of language and by providing her with opportunities to practice writing, 3) provided a supportive social experience by engaging participants equally in conversations about a variety of topics and helping the protégé to modify her narrative writing style to a more conversational style when the context was appropriate, and 4) was a valuable experience according to the protégé. The results also indicated that although an online context reduced barriers to regular and frequent communication such as transportation and weather, delays in communication still arose due to illness. Future programs may utilize multiple modalities to increase the regularity of communication such as face-to-face meetings and instant messaging in addition to using the online forum. Additionally, focused language sessions with a speech language pathologist (SLP) in addition to the mentoring program may be a way to increase the saliency of the goals of the program and therefore facilitate greater changes in linguistic competence. Accessibility adaptations to the online forum will also be necessary. Next steps include involving more participants and evaluation of a mentor training program, which are both currently occurring as part of a larger research project.
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