Learning to communicate: Investigating the developmental model in students with severe intellectual disability

Year: 1994

Author: Butterfield, Nancy, McKinnon, David, Arthur, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on a study designed to investigate the application of a developmental model to the communicative ability of students with severe intellectual disability. The theoretical model of developing communicative competence, at the pre-intentional, intentional and symbolic stages, is increasingly being accepted and applied to the performance of students with severe intellectual disability.

The study design was based on reported evidence for the existence of an underlying cognitive influence on both the object and social communication domains, which influences stage-related development in infants in the first two years. A strong correlation between these two domains in a sample of students with severe intellectual disability will provide empirical support for the development of communicative competence similar to the model reported for non-disabled infants.

A sample of 40 school-age students with severe intellectual disability, ranging in age from 4 to 18 years, was assessed to establish levels of object and social skills. The Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scale was used as an independent measure of general functioning ability.

Results indicate a high correlation between object and social abilities, with differing patterns across groupings according to developmental age. There was no apparent relationship between chronological age and other scores. ANOVA results indicate the development of increasingly complex skills through the stages of learning to communicate.