Qualitatively mapping the social interaction opportunities of children with PMLD in school contexts

Ben Simmons

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


BACKGROUND:Children with PMLD are said to function at the preverbal stages of development because of congenital neurological impairments. A major research focus in the ‘PMLD field’ is the development of intervention strategies which support children’s emerging communication skills. However, such interventions tend to be adult-led and applied in segregated settings. There has been little research exploring the nature of children’s social interaction outside of these constraints. This paper presents on-going research (2014-2017) which addresses this knowledge gap.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS:Three questions guide the research:1.How do different educational environments (special/mainstream, from nursery to post-16) afford alternative opportunities for social interaction?2.How do children with PMLD respond to such opportunities to interact?3.How does such interaction impact on the growth of sociability, understood in terms of agency, intersubjectivity and symbolic communication?
RECRUITMENT & TIMETABLE:Eight children with PMLD will be recruited using quota sampling. Two children will be recruited from each age range (nursery, primary, secondary, post-16). Each child will be observed one day a week in mainstream school and one day a week in special school, over a ten-week period (twenty observations per child). 
METHODOLOGY:A richly interpretivist, qualitative methodology will be employed to develop authentic, trust-worthy interpretations of children’s social actions in different communication contexts. The following methods will be used:(i)Pre-observation focus groups will be run with family members and school staff in order to glean descriptions of children’s communication skills.(ii)Unstructured participatory observation will be used to deepen the researcher’s understanding of individual children. The researcher will engage in participatory observation two days a week for five weeks per child by acting as a teaching assistant. During this time he will engage in informal, reflective dialogue with staff about the meaning of research participants’ actions.(iii)Non-participatory, semi-structured observation will provide the main opportunities for data generation through the writing of vignettes. Vignettes are rich prosaic renderings of fieldwork observations. They have a narrative, story-like structure that preserves chronological flow and offer a vivid portrayal of the events in everyday life. The aim is to write detailed micro-descriptions of children’s interactions with others. The process of vignette writing creates a textual catalogue of data for each child documenting the range of social actions across contexts which can be subjected to thematic analysis.
RESEARCH FINDINGS:Preliminary findings will be reported from stage one of the research involving four children from primary school.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAustralian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Annual International Conference - University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Perth, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Nov 2015 → …


ConferenceAustralian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Annual International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityFremantle, Perth
Period30/11/15 → …


Dive into the research topics of 'Qualitatively mapping the social interaction opportunities of children with PMLD in school contexts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this