25 Sep 2017

Teaching Adults With Intellectual Disability Manual Signs Through Their Support Staff: A Key Word Signing Program

The goal of this study was to evaluate a key word signing (KWS) program in which adults with mild to severe intellectual disability (ID) were taught manual signs through their support staff. Our hypothesis was that spontaneous manual sign production of participants would increase significantly after 12 months of implementation of the KWS program.

Method A KWS immersion program was implemented in a facility for adults with ID. First, 8 support workers received 8 hr of training. These KWS ambassadors then taught 2 manual signs per week to their colleagues, who modeled the use of the signs throughout the day in natural interactions with their clients. KWS use in 15 adults with ID and 15 of their support staff was evaluated before the start of the program and at a 12-month followup using a narrative task and during spontaneous conversation.

Results Manual sign production of support workers and adults with ID had increased significantly 12 months after the start of the program. The adults with ID were able to express significantly more communicative functions in their narrative language after the intervention and when using KWS. Conclusion The KWS program was successful and can be applied in similar clinical settings.

Acknowledgments This study is part of a research project leading to a doctoral degree. The authors are grateful to the M. M. Delacroix Foundation for funding this project. Furthermore, the authors thank the participating residential and day care program and its psychologist, support workers, and clients for their enthusiastic cooperation.


American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2015, Vol. 24, 545-560. doi:10.1044/2015_AJSLP-14-0062