Parents' perspectives on the communication skills of their children with severe disabilities

Jennifer Stephenson*, Margaret Dowrick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The development of communication skills in children with severe disabilities partly depends on the responsivity of partners to all forms of communicative behaviour. This study explored the behaviours that parents interpret as communicative. Method: Parents of 10 children aged 4 to 9 years were interviewed about the forms of communication used by their children. All the children had severe intellectual disability and were unable to use spoken language as their primary means of communication. Results: Parents described a wide range of behaviours, including the use of facial expressions, body movements, vocalisations, gestures, word approximations and words, formal and made-up signs, and object and picture symbols, as communicative behaviours. Conclusions: Parents interpreted many of these behaviours, including challenging behaviours, as communicative, but may need support to encourage presymbolic communicative behaviours. Where formal alternative and augmentative communication had been introduced by schools, parents were not always supportive of its use at home.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'Parents' perspectives on the communication skills of their children with severe disabilities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this