The integration of multilingualism and culture into augmentative and alternative communication services for school-aged children in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, South Africa.
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Language and cultural diversity influence how individuals of different backgrounds interact. This heterogeneity can affect how Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) services are provided to children with complex communication needs. This qualitative research study explored how Speech-Language Therapists (SLTs) integrate multilingualism and culture when providing AAC management to school-aged children. Twelve SLTs and parents from two provinces in South Africa provided insights into methods of obtaining language and cultural information from family members who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD), methods of AAC assessment and intervention, how SLTs provide cross-linguistic and cross-cultural services and the challenges experienced. The data which was gathered using journals, individual interviews and questionnaires revealed that SLTs integrate families’ language background into management by using ‘informal’ interpreters, enhancing their own proficiency in languages their clients speak and using informal assessment procedures. Culture was not explicitly explored at the outset of management leading to poor integration of culture in AAC services. School-aged children did not adequately communicate in multiple languages as the language of learning and teaching, English, was often promoted to the exclusion of multilingualism. Family collaboration in the school context was a challenge which leads to ineffective carryover and integration of language and culture in AAC service provision. The implications and limitations of the study are presented.