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IES Grant

Title: Developing an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Intervention for Preschool Children with Severe Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Quinn, Emily Awardee: Oregon Health and Science University
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (09/01/2019—08/31/2023) Award Amount: $499,999
Type: Training Award Number: R324B190024

Mentors: Brady, Nancy; Fried-Oken, Melanie; Machalicek, Wendy

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct a program of research for improving communication skills among young children who require augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems while participating in mentoring and training activities to develop knowledge and skills related to the measurement of preschoolers' communication skills, single-case design, randomized controlled trials, and virtual coaching for teachers. Despite research showing the benefits of AAC for children with disabilities, teachers often lack the knowledge and skills to support communication development for children who use AAC. Additionally, teachers report difficulties integrating AAC into classroom activities since it requires adaptations to instructional methods and classroom materials. Consequently, there is a critical need to enhance the capacity of teachers to use AAC in their classrooms to support the communication development of young children with significant language or communication impairment. The PI intends to address this need by iteratively developing and testing the feasibility, usability, and promise of the Classroom AAC Intervention (CAI) for improving the implementation of communication support strategies among teachers and communication skills of preschoolers who use AAC.

Research Plan: The purpose of the research plan is to iteratively develop, refine, and evaluate CAI across a series of studies. During Year 1, the PI will develop and revise CAI through focus groups with early childhood teachers (Study 1) and observations of typical preschool instruction (Study 2). In Year 2, the PI will revise CAI based on findings from Study 1 and Study 2 and test the effect of CAI on teachers' use of communication support strategies and students' communication skills in a single-case design study (Study 3). In Year 3, CAI will be revised based on the findings from Study 3, and another single-case design study will be used to determine the best frequency and method for providing coaching to teachers, such as bug-in-ear or annotated video performance feedback (Study 4). In Year 4, the PI will conduct a small randomized controlled trial with 24 teachers and their students to determine the promise of the final version of the intervention for improving teachers' use of communication support strategies and students' communication outcomes (Study 5). Fidelity will be assessed through direct observation throughout the single-case design studies and the randomized controlled trial. Feasibility and acceptability of the intervention procedures will be assessed in Study 3 and 4 through observation of video recordings and teacher surveys. Data from the single-case design studies will be analyzed using visual and statistical analysis. Data from Study 5 will be analyzed using multiple regression to determine the main effects of the intervention. The PI will also conduct a cost analysis to determine the cost of implementing the final version of the intervention.

Career Plan: Through a career development plan, the PI intends to expand her knowledge and skills around (1) the measurement of student communication skills in preschool settings, (2) single-case design and analysis, (3) randomized controlled trials, and (4) virtual instruction and coaching methods for teachers. To accomplish these goals, the PI will conduct monthly meetings with mentors, participate in a training on how to administer a communication measure, complete an online program on coaching models, receive training from mentors and experts on single-case design, and participate in a workshop on randomized controlled trials.