This is a fairly intermittent blog of my reflections on involving children in the design of communication aid technologies.  I’m a speech & language therapist who is extremely privileged to work with an amazing group of children and young people who use their augmentative and alternative communication systems to  build relationships, interact, share life stories and orchestrate how they are perceived by others through their technologies.  Well actually, that last bit is not quite true… we’re working on it.

Like other technologies, communication aids have the potential to improve lives by ‘giving people a voice’.  On the most superficial level, seeing a computer attached to a child’s wheelchair immediately suggests that child has something to say and a way of saying it.  What is not seen is the immense effort that is needed to learn to use the system, dissolution following the initial introduction of a device and, very commonly, abandonment.

Children with neurodiversity have different skills that are shaped by their altered experiences of the world as they learn through interaction and play.  Technologies that assume children follow typical language trajectories can be difficult to adopt.

seated person looking at stage

My research is focused on involving children with severe speech and physical impairments in developing new communication aids that reflect their priorities through the process of participatory design.

The following blog posts will reflect my PhD journey over the next few years as I’m supported by Dr Asimina Vasalou and Dr Michael Clarke.  I am based at the UCL Knowledge Lab, London.

Please feel free to comment on posts or contact me.  I’d really welcome your thoughts.