The nature of teacher-student interactions during communication intervention for young children with developmental disabilities including severe/multiple developmental disabilities
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Teachers’ responses as well as the children’s types of disabilities have a great impact on how often and in what ways the children will communicate with the teachers. (Lee, 2001; Wu, 2003). Limited research on teacher-student interactions in special education classroom settings raises a series of questions regarding the teachers’ perspectives, teacher training, children’s communication behaviors and their learning of social communication skills. The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of interactions between teachers and young children with developmental disabilities including severe/multiple developmental disabilities (SMDD) during communication interventions and how both were mutually influenced by such interactions. Specifically, the guiding questions were: (a) How did teachers interact with young children with developmental disabilities during interventions? (b) Why did the teachers choose certain types of responses and strategies/techniques during interventions? and (c) What were the outcomes of the communication interventions for young children with developmental disabilities including SMDD? Using naturalistic inquiry as the research method, and drawing on sociocultural theory, this research constructed a case study of teacher-student interactions during communication intervention in one classroom in south Taiwan. Participants included three special educators and four students with developmental disabilities. Data sources included classroom observations, interviews with teachers, and document analysis. Data were analyzed using the constant-comparative method and discourse analysis. The findings revealed that the three teacher participants made efforts to shape the young children’s learning attitudes and behaviors. Yet, how they responded to the individual child was varied in terms of the young children’s disabilities, their capabilities for communication, and their specific challenging behaviors. The communication interventions resulted in some positive outcomes of the children’s social communication skills. However, the teachers’ lack of knowledge and training of implementing assistive technologies limited their ability to carry out effective communication interventions for the child with SMDD. Further, the teachers’ concerns for the children’s utilization of appropriate social communication manners were influenced greatly by their own their professional training and perspectives which might be influenced by Chinese culture and Confusion’s philosophy. These findings have implications for further research, classroom practice, and teacher education.