(a) what are the communication demands of the postsecondary environment as reported by students who have cerebral palsy and use AAC, (b) how are these communications demands met, and (c) how effective are the reported communication methods in meeting these communication demands?
The participants of this study were students who (a) did not use speech as the primary method to meet their daily communication needs (e.g., speech could not be understood by an unfamiliar partner, not including persons who stuttered or who previously had a laryngectomy); (b) used AAC (e.g., communication board, adapted computer equipment, gestures, paper and pencil, photographs, printed words, electronic device, etc.); (c) had cerebral palsy; (d) had no uncorrected sensory deficits (e.g., hearing and vision assessed as being within normal limits); (e) were enrolled in a 4-year university of college in Pennsylvania in Spring semester, 1996.
As the first step in the recruitment process, personnel at disability services offices, Central Instructional Support Center, and Augmentative Communication Empowerment Support (ACES) were asked to forward a letter (written by the first author) to potential participants. The letter outlined the purpose of the study, monetary reimbursement, and the participant's role. Interested participants were asked to complete a brief form that was returned to the investigator in a self-addressed stamped envelope. On the return form, participants were asked to indicate the questionnaire format they wanted to receive. For participants who requested a copy to be completed by hand, an extra page was added to gather information on the individual who had completed the form (i.e., interpreter), the relationship that the interpreter had to the participant (e.g., family, professional, personal care provider, friend, significant other, or other), and the length of time the interpreter had known the participant.
To identify participants who met the criteria, a number of strategies were used. First, the disability services at selected postsecondary institutions in Pennsylvania were contacted. The schools included were those that were listed in Peterson's National College Databank: The College Book of Lists (1993) as accredited four-year colleges or universities (n = 96). Second, the personnel at the Central Instructional Support Center, a statewide educational agency serving school-aged students who use assistive technology, was contacted to assist in identifying students known to the agency who upon graduation had anticipated attending college in Pennsylvania. Third, Augmentative Communication Empowerment Supports (ACES), a program for adults with physical and speech disabilities, was contacted to assist in the identification of individuals who were currently enrolled in college. Finally, a notice was posted that briefly described the investigation on the Augmentative Communication On-Line Users Group listserv.1