Date of Award

Summer 7-26-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Special Education - General Curriculum (Ed.D)

Department

Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Harriet Bessette

First Committee Member

Dr. Joya Carter-Hicks

Second Committee Member

Dr. Raynice Jean-Sigur

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how preschool educators perceive augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and how those perceptions influence AAC utilization in preschool classrooms. Specifically, this investigation focused on gaining better understandings about educators’ views, beliefs, and attitudes about AAC utilization to facilitate communication. Semistructured, open-ended interviews, classroom observations, and document review were the data collection sources used. Findings suggest that preschool special educators value the use of AAC and understand the basic human right for all students to participate. However, special education teachers and special education paraprofessionals perceive their roles and responsibilities, as communicative partners and facilitators, differently. The data reveal that limited knowledge and resources are barriers to facilitating communication, through the use of AAC systems. It may be inferred that educators with more knowledge about disability, technology, and AAC systems perceive fewer barriers to AAC utilization. In turn, those special educators typically utilize AAC more in their instructional practice. Additional findings suggest that special educators may be able to increase their utilization of AAC if provided with professional development related to communication, AAC devices, and updated technology. The increased prevalence of students with autism spectrum disorder, speech impairments, or intellectual and other developmental delays makes the population of students using AAC increasingly diverse. District-level professional development is critical to maximizing the communication and instructional experiences of students with complex communication needs.

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