Interactional competences: Social representations and interactional practices in speech and language therapy

Speech therapist helping teenager

Project summary

This project is dedicated to speech and language therapy, focusing on social interactions between speech therapists and people with language disorders. It aims to investigate the nature and the role of interaction competences in speech therapy offered to adolescents suffering from language impairment. It is articulated according to two complementary themes: the actual practices during speech therapy sessions; and the social representations of therapists and adolescents as regards these competences. 

The complementarity of these themes is designed to provide the grounds for a better understanding of the actual practice of speech therapy, the aims of the clinicians and the expectations of the adolescents as regards their therapy, and ultimately the degree of convergence between therapists’ and patients’ apprehension of the nature and the importance of interactional competences.

The Speech Therapy project provides a better understanding of how interactional competences are configured within the very course of speech therapy sessions to favor young people’s integration into education and work-life.

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The Speech Therapy project is based on four main research questions :

  1. What is the nature and role of interaction competences put to work in speech therapy interventions?
  2. What are the social representations of therapists and adolescents as regards interactional competences?
  3. What are the relations between the declared social representations of interactional competences and the representations in action that emerge within the very practice of speech therapy?
  4. What is the degree of convergence between what we observe for language and speech therapy and the social stakes with which adolescents are confronted in school, training and/or work? 

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The research is carried out in various public and private speech therapy institutions, on a strickly voluntary basis. The condition for clinicians to participate is to have adolescents regularly participating in their therapy sessions. Three types of data will be collected:

  1. Written questionnaires addressed to adolescents and their therapists about the types of interactional competences put to work within therapy sessions and (for the adolescents) outside, the role of the interaction competences, the adolescents’ interactional capacities and difficulties;
  2. Videotaped speech therapy sessions for some adolescents, one session every two weeks over a period of 4 months;
  3. Videotaped semi-directed interviews with the speech therapists and the adolescents whose sessions have been recorded in order to deepen some of the issues addressed in the written questionnaire and to hightlight congruencies with the actual practices (based on selected excerpts from the videotaped therapy sessions).

Different types of analysis, quantitative and qualitative, are used:

  • Written questionnaires: a content analysis elaborated in a data-driven way;
  • Therapy sessions:
    • a sequential analysis of activities carried out
    • a discourse analysis with a focus on telling a story, explaining past or absent phenomena, etc.
    • micro-analysis of interactions with a particular focus on the resolution of interpersonal comprehension problems
  • Interviews: content analysis of the representations, observation of the representations-in-action;
  • Comparisons: in order to assess how the practices of speech therapy and therapists’ and patients’ social representations relate to the expectations and practices in educational institutions, some results will be compared with some of those of the IC-You subprojects School and Vocational Training.
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This project is expected to provide an important contribution to our understanding of how adolescents with language disorders perceive their own competences and difficulties, and how they assess the possible effect of these on their future education and work. The project is also anticipated to provide empirically grounded knowledge about several underexplored dimensions of speech therapy, by uncovering some of the interactional mechanisms underlying therapy sessions and by revealing how therapists understand the nature and the importance of interactional competences.

Fundamental research

The contribution of this project to fundamental research lies first in investigating the relation between declared social representations concerning interaction competences and the use of these competences in actual practices. This is a novel initiative in the field of speech and language therapy. Therefore, from a methodological perspective, the present subproject contributes to the development of an analytical procedure that is apt to provide a better understanding the functioning of therapeutic interventions, by relating social representations and social practice in systematic ways.

Applied research

The findings emanating from this project will also have implications for clinical research. The findings may modify certain therapeutic parameters. The way our findings for speech therapy relate to the requirements of school and vocational training will significantly affect such changes. Also, we plan to submit the results of this project for discussion to professionals, with the goal of elaborating more precise and targeted intervention programs for interactional competences.

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  • Cirrin, F.M. & Gillam, R.B. (2008). Language intervention practices for school-age children with spoken language disorders: A systematic review. Language, Speech and Services in Schools, 39, 110-137.
  • Conti-Ramsden, G. & Botting, N. (2008). Emotional health in adolescents with and without a history of specific language impairment (SLI). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(5), 516-525.
  • Conti-Ramsden, G. & Durkin, K. (2008). Language and independence in adolescents with and without a history of specific language impairment (SLI). Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51, 70-83.
  • de Weck, G. (2010). Interactions adulte-enfant et troubles du développement du langage: Bilan des recherches et questions ouvertes. In J. Bernicot, E. Veneziano, M. Musiol & A. Bert-Erboul (Eds.), Interactions verbales et acquisition du langage (pp. 151-170). Paris: L’Harmattan.
  • de Weck, G. & Marro, P. (2010). Les troubles du langage chez l’enfant. Description et évaluation. Paris: Masson.
  • de Weck, G, Salazar Orvig, A., Corlateanu, C., da Silva, C., Rezzonico, S. & Bignasca T. (2010). Interactions mère-enfant typique et dysphasique: Comment utiliser les gestes pour formuler une devinette? Lidil, 42, 159-180.
  • Ingold, J., Jullien, S. & de Weck, G. (2005). Introduction des référents dans le discours en fonction du degré de connaissance partagée avec l’interlocuteur: Quelques data concernant des enfants dysphasiques et tout-venant. TRANEL, 42, 105-121.
  • Laval, V., de Weck, G., Chaminaud, S. & Lacroix, A. (2008). Contexte et compréhension des expressions idiomatiques: Une étude chez des enfants francophones présentant une dysphasie de type phonologique syntaxique. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 67(3), 51-60.
  • Nippold, M. A., Mansfield, T.C., Billow, J.L. & Tomblin, J.B. (2008). Expository discourse in adolescents with language impairments: Examining syntactic development. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17, 356-366.
  • Palikara, O., Lindsay, G. & Dockrell, J.E. (2009). Voices of young people with a history of specific language impairment (SLI) in the first year of post-16 education. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 44(1), 56-78.
  • Reed, V.A., Patchell, F.C., Coggins, T.E. & Hand, L.S. (2007). Informativeness of the spoken narratives of younger and older adolescents with specific language impairment and their counterparts with normal language. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 21(11/12), 953-960.
  • Salazar Orvig, A. & de Weck, G. (2008). Profils dialogiques de dyades mère-enfant avec et sans troubles du langage. TRANEL, 49, 45-67.
  • Simkin, Z. & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2009). "I went to a language unit": Adolescents’ views on specialist educational provision and their language difficulties. Child Language & Teaching Therapy, 25(1), 103-122.
  • Wetherell, D., Botting, N. & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2007). Narrative in adolescent specific language impairment (SLI): A comparison with peers across two different narrative genres. International Journal of Communication Disorders, 42(5), 583-605.

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Team members

List of Publications