Adult Interpretations of Communicative Behavior in Learners with Rett Syndrome

Hannah M. Julien, Quannah Parker-McGowan, Breanne J. Byiers, Joe Reichle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study examined adults’ interpretations of the communicative functions of “potential” communicative acts as defined by Sigafoos, et al. (2009) produced by individuals with Rett Syndrome (RTT). Video recordings of three learners with RTT engaged in daily routines were parsed into 5-second clips. Each clip demonstrated a potential communicative act. The primary caregivers and educational professionals who served each of the learners viewed the video clips and rated the communicative function of each behavior, if any. Analyses examined adults’ judgments as a function of their familiarity with the learner as well as their relative familiarity and experience in interpreting limited communicative repertoires (i.e., parents compared to special education professionals). The majority of special education professionals and parents interpret potential communicative behavior to represent communication with a clear intention. The three functions most commonly identified by raters were requesting object, commenting and protesting. There was modest variability in these ratings across participants and between professionals and parents. Variability in the interpretation of potential communicative acts between raters highlights the need for future studies with this population. Implications for future applied research along with educational implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-182
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Communication
  • Rett syndrome


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