New Livability research tackles communication barriers

Assessing a profoundly disabled person’s spoken language comprehension can present barriers, when the test relies on physical movements, such as pointing or verbal answers.  New research, pioneered by Livability’s Victoria Education Centre and just published, presents alternative assessment methods using assistive technology, which could help to direct disabled young people’s education and speech therapy goals.

The pilot study, published in the sector’s prestigious journal ‘Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology’, uses two innovative methods to digitally assess spoken language comprehension. The tests are designed for people whose disabilities mean they rely on assistive tech for communication and control.

Researcher Mark Moseley, Victoria’s Assistive Technologist, explains: ‘The assessments were used with two teenage students who are non-verbal and have profound motor impairments. Both use eye gaze [computer access using vision] as their primary method of communication and access. One assessment used static images and the other short video clips to represent concepts containing temporal, spatial or movement elements.’

The findings

Findings so far indicate that video might be a successful medium for representing certain concepts. One participant scored highly with this method. Mark says this work ‘could help those who have limited ways to show others what they know, to demonstrate the extent of their knowledge and understanding, perhaps for the first time’. Establishing a baseline of comprehension  through these new methods means the young person’s education and speech therapy can be tailored more precisely to their needs and potential.

There are currently few suitable tests to assess spoken language comprehension of children and young people with profound and complex needs.  As well as requiring motor control, traditional tests can often pose problems when representing some concepts, such as movement, with static images.

This research was developed and carried out at Victoria Education Centre as part of Mark’s engineering doctorate at Bournemouth University, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Mark plans to apply for further funding to continue his research.

Livability Victoria Education Centre is at the forefront of assistive technology development. The Dorset school has been awarded the Times Educational Supplements digital innovation prize and contributed to Bournemouth University winning a Times Higher Education award for its work on developing computer-based sculpture and 3D printing software, now in use by students.

[thrive_link color=’orange’ link=’′ target=’_blank’ size=’medium’ align=’aligncenter’]Read the research paper [/thrive_link]