Ballin L, Balandin S, Stancliffe RJ, Togher L. The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. firstname.lastname@example.org. Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2011 Oct;13(5):446-57. doi: 10.3109/17549507.2011.522254. Epub 2010 Oct 25.
Learning to use a speech generating device (SGD), also known as a voice output communication aid (VOCA), is a challenging experience for new device learners. These learners typically rely on training from speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and may not meet other users who are competent SGD communicators. The aim of this study was to explore SLPs’ perceptions of the important components of a program where adults who use an SGD mentor new learners. A total of 17 SLPs experienced in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) participated in one of three focus groups. The focus group discussions were analysed for content themes and these were verified with participants. Thematic analysis revealed that experienced SLPs perceived that a mentoring program to improve SGD use might help people new to using SGDs. Participants were positive about SLPs collaborating with SGD mentors to support new learners. They suggested ways in which SLPs could provide assistance and guidelines for establishing a mentoring program. Potential benefits identified for new learners included opportunities to view successful use of an SGD in everyday settings and to receive support and guidance. Benefits for mentors included the satisfaction of helping new learners.