The Experiences of Intimacy for Adults with Acquired Communication Disorders Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Thesis DisciplineSpeech and Language Therapy
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Speech and Language Therapy
Background: Intimacy has been described as a primary psychological need. In order to function ‚normally‛, we require repeated, positive interactions with those with whom we are in a caring relationship. To date, research looking at adults with acquired communication disorders who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) has focussed on device selection, providing functional communication, acceptance and use of AAC, and caregiver support. There is a lack of research into how the use of AAC impacts the personal and social lives of adults with acquired communication disorders. The aim of this study was to explore the experience of intimacy and intimate communication from the perspective of individuals who have an acquired communication disorder and use AAC, and from the perspective of their partners. Method: A phenomenological research approach was used to address the study aim. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with five participants with an acquired communication disorder who had used AAC some or all of the time and with their five partners. Joint semi-structured interviews were conducted with four of the couples. Thematic analysis was used to identify themes within the data. Results: Eight key themes emerged from the data, namely effort, importance, time, closeness, adaptation, emotion, identity, and privacy. Within these themes participants discussed how AAC has been both beneficial and detrimental to their intimacy and intimate communication. Discussion and Conclusion: This study has identified a number of important areas that professionals need to consider in order to facilitate successful intimacy and intimate communication for adults with acquired communication disorders who use AAC and for their partners. Future research is needed to identify specific ways speech-language therapists can help this population adapt their communication to make the best use of AAC for intimacy and intimate communication.