Communication in Hospital and the ICF – Results from Child and Adult Studies

International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication

#ISAAC2012 @ISAAC_2012 Pittsburgh, USA End July 2012

Title and author details

Using the ICF as a framework to support effective communication between people with CP and CCN and their communication partners in hospital settings.

Authors: Bronwyn Hemsley, Susan Balandin, Melanie Fried-Oken, Linda Worrall.



Effective communication in hospital is central to the provision of healthcare and is built upon interactions between the patient and the provider along with caregivers (Joint Commission, 2010). However, both children and adults with cerebral palsy (CP) and complex communication needs (CCN) struggle to communicate with staff who are not familiar with their communication needs and methods. People who use AAC do not typically take their own AAC systems to hospital, and often rely upon a third party (e.g., family member or paid caregiver) for their communication with hospital staff. Despite the availability of low technology communication aids for use in hospital, environmental barriers preventing their use persist (Hemsley et al., 2011a,b,c). An in-depth understanding of factors affecting communication in hospital according to the ICF is needed to inform the design of interventions to influence uptake and use of AAC tools made available for communication in hospital.



The aim of this study was to investigate communication between children and adults with CP and CCN and their communication partners in hospital to determine: (a) common communication needs, (b) barriers to or strategies to effective communication using AAC in hospital, and (c) the roles of health professionals and carers in supporting communication and preparing for hospitalization. In this paper we will present an overview of the research findings in relation to content themes and factors within the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, & Health (ICF, WHO, 2001) to inform clinical, educational, and research directions in improving communication in hospital.



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