Investigating peer attitudes towards the use of key word signing by children with Down syndrome in mainstream schools
Bowles C., Frizelle P.
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Accessible Summary: This research looked at young children's attitudes towards the use of a signing system by children with Down syndrome, in mainstream school. These attitudes can help to reveal factors which support the successful use of signing as well as those that make it difficult to use signs effectively in a mainstream setting. The results show that although children expressed a number of difficulties in relation to signing, overall they have a positive attitude towards signing on which we should capitalise, to enhance the communicative experiences of both the children with Down syndrome and their peers in mainstream school. Background: Lámh is a key word signing approach used in Ireland, which can support the communication needs of children with Down syndrome. However, the success of this approach in mainstream schools relies heavily on the attitudes of those within the school environment. To date, two studies have explored the attitudes of teaching staff towards the use of keyword signing in schools; however, no previous research has investigated peer attitudes towards this method of communication. This study aimed to explore the attitudes of peers towards the use of Lámh by children with Down syndrome in mainstream schools. Materials and Methods: The study was qualitative, using interpretative phenomenological analysis procedures to analyse eight interviews with children, ranging in age from 6 to 8 years. Results and Conclusion: Overall, mainstream school peers demonstrated an understanding and an appreciation of the use of key word signing. However, the success of this approach within the school was limited by a number of challenges evinced by the school peers, including making the signs accurately and remembering their meanings. Given the important interactive role of the peers of a child with Down syndrome in a mainstream school setting, these challenges need to be addressed to optimise the use of key word signing and increase the likelihood of successful communication between children with Down syndrome and their peers.