Communication Partners: Exploring what adults with intellectual disabilities have to say about learning Lámh to communicate with their friends who use this sign system
The success of skilled communication partners in the development of communication environments for people with intellectual disabilities (ID) is well documented. However there is an absence in the literature of the perspectives of adults with ID as communication partners for peers, with the primary focus of research often on the views of staff or carers.
The views of thirteen participants, from training, employment services and community houses in an ID agency in Ireland, were explored using a focus group methodology. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the perspectives of these adults on learning Lámh sign language to communicate with their non-verbal peers, and to investigate their training needs in relation to Lámh. Findings: Four key themes emerged - the role of peers in supporting communication, education and training opportunities, the link between Lámh, advocacy and inclusion, and Lámh as a pastime. Of particular significance was the fact that all participants identified the strengths of current Lámh training and suggested improvements for future training. Participants commented on the link between communication rights, advocacy and valued social roles.
The findings show the adult’s willingness to improve their knowledge and skills in order to support everyday interactions, foster friendships and contribute to circles of support for peers with more significant communication difficulties. This could influence the work of the Lámh organisation and Speech and Language Therapists in the future design and delivery of interventions. Based on the views of participants, recommendations are made on the need for formal accredited training and role recognition.