Student and professional attitudes and interests in working with people with complex communication needs Academic Article uri icon


  • Speech-language pathology interest in working with people with complex communication needs was investigated in this study. Participants were third year speech-language pathology undergraduates and recent graduates who had participated in a unit on AAC. Undergraduates (n = 85) completed an Interaction with Disabled Persons attitudinal scale and a questionnaire about interest in various client groups before and after the unit. Some undergraduates (n = 34) repeated the attitudinal scale and completed another questionnaire 2 years after graduation. Recent graduates (n = 56) completed a questionnaire about working with people with complex communication needs and factors influencing work choices; 10 also participated in interviews or focus groups. We found a small but positive attitudinal shift for the undergraduates, but, along with previous disability experience, this was a weak predictor of working with this group. Working in developmental disability ranked low amongst undergraduate preferences. Most graduates were influenced in their job choices by a desire to work on a particular team and previous clinical placements. Questionnaires and interview/focus group data indicated the strong influence of clinical placements on later work choices. Participants who worked in disability appeared passionate about the work involved and offered suggestions for engaging more professionals with this group. Implications for speech-language pathology services in disability are discussed.

publication date

  • January 2008