South African Journal of Education

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Shared storybook reading interactions between children with complex communication needs and their caregivers

Refilwe Elizabeth Morwane, Shakila Dada, Juan Bornman


Quality early home literacy experiences, specifically young children’s shared storybook reading experiences, have been identified as critical for establishing the foundations of reading and writing skills. Despite this, literature reports that children with complex communication needs (CCN) have limited exposure to literacy material. There is, however, a paucity of research regarding the home literacy experiences of children with disabilities specifically those with CCN and in developing countries contexts. This study aims to analyse the behaviours of both primary caregivers and their children with CCN during shared storybook reading using a descriptive, observational design. Twelve primary caregivers and their children participated in the study. The 12 participating dyads were video recorded during shared storybook reading activity. Their interactions were analysed using a communicative behaviour checklist coding communicative behaviour of both dyad participants during the shared storybook reading. Results were similar to previous studies conducted on children with CCN from developed countries. The caregivers showed higher rates of interaction as compared to their children, whilst they focused on labelling the pictures rather than reading the story verbatim. Although patterns of interaction varied across the caregivers, they seldom asked complex questions or related the story to the child’s utterances. The children, on the other hand, seldom asked questions or commented on the stories. Their interaction patterns could have been improved, should the children have had access to communication devices and caregivers guided on using strategies to facilitate learning during these shared literacy activities.

Keywords: augmentative and alternative communication; caregiver-child interaction; communicative behaviours patterns; complex communication needs; literacy development
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