Means, Reasons and Opportunities

In 2010  Barnsley Assistive Technology Team in conjunction with Devices for Dignity undertook research to look at communication aid users views of communication aids and their priorities (report | paper ).

Example page from Barnsley MRO resource.

Example page from Barnsley MRO resource.

As part of this work a symbol based questionnaire and symbol based resources for qualitative interviews were developed. The symbolised interview prompt sheets enabled particpants with speech and language disorders to fully participate in the interviews and hence enabled the project to get true input from these participants, rather than via a communication partner.

Recently within our team we have been exploring the more formal examination of Means, Reasons and Opportunities (Della Money and Sue Thurman, 2002) during our assessments. Money and Thurman’s work states that, without the means of communication you cannot express yourself, without reasons for communication, there is no point or need to communicate and without the opportunities, there cannot be any communication. We are all aware that however amazing or high-tech a piece of equipment  is, or however right it may be for the person, if they do not have the reasons or opportunities for communication the introduction of the technology will be unsuccessful.

We have always discussed these three aspects during our assessments but are looking at more formal discussion and tools with which to do this. We identified that the symbol based resources which had been used for the qualitative interviews in the previous D4D work could be used when considering the reasons and opportunities and that the other parts of the original resources would still be useful if discussions of means, reasons and opportunities lead to further discussion of the features of a communication aid required.

In the original work the sheets of symbols were used as a series of sheets that people pointed to, or indicated selections on via the most appropriate method. For this application we cut out the symbols and laminated them so that they could be moved around and so that they could be transferred to a ‘reasons’ or ‘opportunities’ sheet or area.

We used this successfully with a Stroke Survivor. He had been referred to our team for assessment for a communication aid after previously rejecting a communication aid. We decided to use these resources to look in detail at the means, reasons and opportunities to identify potential reasons why a communication aid had been previously rejected and to fully explore with the person where he felt a communication aid would be of benefit. He was keen to interact with the resources and the symbol support aided the understanding within the discussion.

Having developed these resources we are keen to share them and have made them freely avaliable below. If you do use them it would be great if you could contact us with case studies or examples of how you have used the resources.