Jan Payne


An observational study with an emergent design of two parts, consisting of quantitative and qualitative analysis, looked at communicative interactions between carers and children. The children were drawn from three groups: Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome and typically developing. The first part of the study utilised a secondary data set of observations of play sessions of carers with children who have Cerebral Palsy and carers of children with typical development. A continuous observational data-logging method of four verbal and six non-verbal behaviours was piloted and used with this data, and also used with observations of a further research group of carers with children who have Down syndrome, Measurement and comparison of frequencies of verbal and non-verbal behaviours was carried out. The behaviours were: verbal - questions and replies, descriptive commenting and directives; non-verbal - attention-directing, demonstrating, physically orienting, attending and exploring. Between the groups, similarities and differences were found in the frequencies of particular behaviours. Although the greatest frequency of questions and replies were by carers and children in the typically developing group, frequencies of descriptive commenting were similar across the groups. The second part of the study consisted of a qualitative analysis of two carer-child pairs from each of the three groups. Differences in individual style were found between and within the groups. Characteristics and strategies of carer's communicative interactions, and their functional relation to the attentional and responding capacities of the children, were identified and described. A clinically interesting finding was made, that the questions asked by carers of the children with Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome, were, in the absence of replies by the children, transformed into descriptive comments. The findings of the study are discussed. The methodology, and issues of interpretation, clinical significance and future research are critically evaluated.

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