The use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Survey of Speech-Language Therapists and Teachers in Three Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show deficits in communication, social interaction, and display inappropriate behaviors. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is one of the methods used often to improve communication skills in children with ASD. AAC intervention studies on the perceptions of speech-language therapists (SLTs) and teachers have been conducted mainly in northern and southern African countries. This study examined the perception of 14 SLTs and 24 teachers on the use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for children with autism spectrum disorders in three countries Sub-Saharan Africa. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants. Data was collected using an online survey Qualtrics™. The results of the study revealed that both SLTs and teachers had positive perceptions on the use and importance, benefits, and their roles in using AAC with children with ASD. In addition, they perceived their training to be inadequate to enable them to provide services effectively. Teamwork was also perceived to be vital in the implementation of AAC. The data from this study adds new information to the knowledge base in regard to views of SLTs and teachers in the underdeveloped countries in Sub-Saharan Africa on the use, importance, interventions, perceptions, benefits, and challenges they face in the use of AAC interventions. Examining these components led to recommendations and concerns for future training opportunities for SLTs and teachers in the region. The outcome also had the potential of informing the resource/material providers and decision-makers in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda to develop devices that would be appropriate for individuals with ASD in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems, Speech-Language Therapists, Autism, Perceptions, Teachers