Supporting adults with intellectual disabilities by protecting their footing in a challenging conversational task
Keywords:intellectual disability, communication, empowerment, Goffman, production formats
One element of empowering vulnerable clients is to accord them conversational rights they are otherwise denied. The objective of this study was to identify the conversational practices used by staff supporting clients with intellectual disabilities in a linguistically demanding, but ostensibly empowering, task: taking control of a meeting. An analysis of Goffman's 'production formats' was used to identify how staff supported service-users in: nominating next speaker, asking questions, and evaluating answers, and moving to next speaker. Staff's support strategies ranged along a gradient, from those that most respected the service-user's footing as chair (by displays of low entitlement in suggestions, provision of candidate questions, speaking on behalf of the chair, and so on) to those that least did so (ultimately taking full control of the meeting).Without staff intervention, service-users with intellectual impairments struggle to meet the demands of chairing meetings. The practices identified here work to preserve the service-users' entitlement to carry out a designated task, in appearance if not in reality.
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