The Lived Experience of Using a Speech-generating Device

  • Author / Creator
    Howery, Kathy L
  • The field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication is emerging understanding of both practice and praxis. Speech-generating devices (SGDs) are becoming smaller, more powerful and more accessible to people with complex communication needs. There is a growing body of evidence based practices that speech language pathologists, teachers and families can draw upon to understand how best to support people who use these devices to effectively communicate throughout their daily lives (Beukelman & Mirenda, 2013; Drager & Reichle, 2010; Light & McNaughton, 2014). Despite these exciting advances, there is still little understood about the phenomenon itself, that is what is it really like to speak with/through a SGD? Research Question: What is the experience of speaking with a machine by one who is severely speech impaired? This essential question is explored by employing the existentials of lived relation (relationality), lived body (corporeality), lived space (spatiality), lived time (temporality), and lived things and technology (materiality) (van Manen, 2014). 
 Method: This study draws upon the phenomenology of practice (van Manen, 2014) as a method of researching lived experience in order to glean insights into what it might be like to speak through a device, the meaning of this phenomenon in the lives of those who use SGDs, and implications for pedagogical practice. Phenomenological studies seek to shatter the taken-for-grantedness of everyday life by stepping back from preconceptions and theories and invoking an attitude of openness and wonder to the meaning of experiences for people as they actually live through them. Participants in this study include young people with cerebral palsy who use so called, high tech devices to communicate using computer synthesized speech on a regular basis. Their experiences with their devices have been collected through interview, their written descriptions, and close observation. Additional lived experience material has been gathered from published accounts of other device users both from traditional print media. Texts (“Findings”): This inquiry resulted in four manuscripts where I have explored various meaning-aspects of what it is like to speak with a SGD. The first text, Phenomenological Investigation Into Speaking With A Machine, borrows McLuhan’s notion of extension and amputation as heuristics to explore the phenomenon at hand. The orientation is toward postphenomenology (Selinger, 2006) as it explores human-technology relations; how these devices both extend the user’s ability to speak while simultaneously amputating what might be considered access to meaningful communication through voice. The second text, The Speech-generating Device Thing, presents an exploration of the SGD as a thing in the Heideggerian tradition (Heidegger, 1971). This paper explores the question of what an SGD is as it is called upon to do the ordinary every day task of speaking for one who cannot. How does the experience of SGD use contribute to the essential meaning of this phenomenon? Text number three, Out of time in the classroom, focuses particularly on the existential theme of temporality reflecting on how time is experienced when speaking with a SGD. In the final text, What does the non-speaking child say? aims at going beyond perceptions of people about, and of, SGDs to provide educators and other professionals with a glimpse into the phenomenon of speaking with SGD in the lifeworld of a child. This text in particular was aimed at those in the field of special education, and will hopefully be accessible and useful for those who may come into contact with a non-speaking child in the classroom. Concluding Comments & Significance: Through these texts I explored possible experiential realities from a pedagogical perspective, challenging educators and related health professionals to consider the unique, yet recognizable, experience of a child who uses a SGD in order enter into the taken for granted world of one who speaks, must do so through a machine. The texts also have implications for adoption and development of value-sensitive design practices for the field of rehabilitation technology. The study addresses a gap in augmentative and alternative communication literature, as there is little qualitative research in the field, particularly as it relates to the experience of people who communicate through augmented means. Finally, this research also addresses a significant gap in the philosophy of technology, as assistive technologies are decidedly unrepresented in this area.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.