IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Communication in non-speaking children with physical disabilities: design-oriented research

26 June 2019, 12:30 pm–1:30 pm

A Day at Normandy Park with Jaece. Image by EasyStand (CC BY 2.0).

In this talk, Seray Ibrahim reports on a qualitative empirical study that involved five children with severe speech and physical impairments (SSPIs) and their social groups, in the context of their everyday lives.

Event Information

Open to





Laura Benton


Large Seminar Room
UCL Knowledge Lab
23-29 Emerald St

The study of communication in children with SSPIs has increasingly focused on the ways that meaning is socially constructed within interpersonal interaction. However the focus has predominantly been on examining how communicative actions are organised around talk. For non-speaking children, this is problematic.

The impact of this perspective has informed how to design for communication, through the introduction and use of speech-generating devices. However opportunities remain for understanding how children communicate by drawing on a wide range of multimodal resources, after moving the primary focus away from talk.

Firstly, this talk presents the findings of an observational study that investigated how multimodal communication was co-constructed by children and their social groups. Secondly, Seray presents findings of a mixed methods study that identified insights about what the children in the study appeared to value, based on how and what they communicated. Finally, the findings of both studies are discussed in terms of the three main contributions they provide by:

  1. introducing a new perspective for describing communication involving children with SSPIs
  2. developing a systematic and reflexive methodological approach for investigating multimodal communication in children
  3. revealing a number of design implications for new ways of supporting communication with digital technologies.


This UCL Knowledge Lab seminar is free to attend and open to all, but attendees external to UCL should sign-up via email to Laura Benton (l.benton@ucl.ac.uk) or Michelle Cannon (m.cannon@ucl.ac.uk). 

You can also join the conversation on Twitter with #UCLKLtalks.



A Day at Normandy Park with Jaece, by EasyStand (CC BY 2.0). 

About the Speaker

Seray Ibrahim

PhD student

Seray is a final year PhD student, based at the UCL Knowledge Lab. She qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist in 2004. Before undertaking doctoral studies, she worked in the NHS specialising in neurodevelopmental disabilities in children’s community settings. She holds an MRes in Speech, Language and Cognition and Bachelors in Speech Sciences both from University College London (UCL). Her research takes a critical and emancipatory perspective on designing for communication. She is supervised by Dr Asimina Vasalou and Dr Michael Clarke, both at UCL.

More about Seray Ibrahim