The effect of pause time upon the communicative interactions of young people who use augmentative and alternative communication.
Type of content
Minimal research exists regarding the effectiveness of pause time as an independent strategy for communication partners to support the communication of young people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). To date, pause time has been investigated as component of a group of interaction strategies only; therefore its validity as an interaction strategy for communication partners is unknown. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of variation in pause time as an interaction strategy when communicating with young people who use AAC. Eight participants aged 8:11 to 20:08 years (mean 16.02 years), who used a variety of AAC systems, participated in the study. Three pause time conditions were trialed during a scripted shared storybook reading task: two, 10 and 45 seconds in which to initiate a response. A total of 27 conversational turn opportunities were provided to participants over the course of the task. If no response was initiated within the pause time, the examiner moved on to the next turn opportunity. If a response was initiated, the participant was provided time to finish their turn. Turns were analyzed for percentage of responses made to a turn opportunity, mean length of utterance in words (MLU), percentage of assertive conversational acts made and the modes of communication used. Findings of the study indicated that participants were more likely to respond to a turn opportunity when their communication partner allowed a longer pause time. Additionally, a longer pause time resulted in a higher MLU. Participants did not use a greater number of assertive conversational acts or use their AAC system over other modes of communication when provided a longer pause time. Results are discussed in relation to the current AAC literature and implications of the findings for clinicians and communication partners of young people who use AAC.