Recently I read and reflected on Van’t Westende, B. & Kok, M ‘Getting Parents on Board with AAC Implementation’ Communication Matters Vol 34 No 2 Aug 2020.
I was keen to see what was out there in the academic world about supporting parents to implement AAC and found this article in the latest Communication Matters journal. When I sat down to explore this article I didn’t expect to be revising Jungian Psychology. I didn’t do it for long.
To give a very brief summary the authors were working on a project in a school. The project involved helping both teachers and other school staff and parents to do more with AAC. They write about how from their own experience that know that ‘every parent needs their own personal guidance’ and that all families need something different.
This is where the psychology comes in. They used some ideas based in psychoanalysis written by experts in marketing who had written about what motivates different people at different times.
The writers describe that some people are self motivated while others are more motivated by external support. That some people feel secure and want to seek opportunities and progress where some people feel less secure and like to find ways to be in control. At any time people are somewhere on each of these scales. If you want to look at the model and the detail with the description the article is on the communication matters website. They write that based on what they found in their project they think Mums are often insecure but might be self or externally motivated. They give us two examples of parents and their differing needs.
I got thinking about where I fit when trying to describe myself as self or externally motivated and insecure or confident. As the authors rightly identify ‘people are not always in the same place on the model’.
At times I feel insecure about implementing AAC, for me this is in situations where I think there will be a lot to explain or more to do than just supporting my girl to use AAC. The times I need to advocate for her, help other people understand her AAC use. She’s very much still exploring AAC and I find it hard when people see she has an extensive system and expect her to use it. I also find it challenging when people know she’s just learning to use it and wonder why I give her so much vocabulary. The fact is sometimes it’s just easier not to get it out and to enjoy the here and now and keep control without being a therapist, advocate, tutor. Exactly the behaviours this paper describes as part of feeling insecure.
On the other hand… the days I’m at the secure end of the spectrum… well they’re really something. A fly on the wall would see it was one of those days. Noodle (which is how I’ll refer to my daughter from now on in this blog) will have her device mounted from the moment she’s up. Heck she’s probably looked at some symbols before she got up while we talk about what’s happening. Symbols not around anywhere? … out with the Makaton. These days are rare but at the end of them I usually feel it’s been a great day.
In terms of being self motivated or motivated by others. This varies day to day too. Certainly very early in our AAC journey I had to be quite self motivated as SLT provision was scarce. I took it upon myself to learn what I needed to get communication support going for Noodle. On the other hand good group support through a specialist parent and toddler group was a great help with all aspects of parenting a child with complex needs. I’m not sure what putting everything down in a blog says about internal/ external motivation… probably a bit about both!
All in all throughout reading the article I felt there were aspects I could identify with and relate to myself and my experience. Personally I love a good model/ psychological theory to hang experiences on. I do have some reservations about this particular model though. I’m not able to access the original article describing the model so I haven’t read it but I know it to be from a book about marketing. My concern is whether this is applicable to working in the field of communication disability. The model is purely one of internal motivation and behaviour and doesn’t take into account how external factors (medical needs, juggling appointments and school reports, worrying about nutrition, sudden hospitalisation, work, unemployment… heck maybe even just needing a really good nights sleep) have on not just motivation to but also capacity to take on AAC too. Any model that explores parents ‘getting on board’ should, I think, take a much wider view of needs and motivators. Like the title says it’s hard to get on board if the boat is rocking.
I hope you’ve found this interesting and/or useful. Please comment if there are things you identify with/that you think I’ve got wrong or misunderstood or other articles you think might be interesting.