Tania De Bortoli, Susan Balandin, Phil Foreman, Michael Arthur-Kelly, and Bernice Mathisen
Abstract: The aim of this study was to explore regular teachers’ perceptions and experiences of supports and obstacles to communicative interactions for students with multiple and severe disabilities (MSD). Five teachers of students with MSD participated in two in-depth interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed using content analysis. Transcripts were coded into categories, which were then grouped to yield content themes. Participants identified a broad range of themes, including: the complex needs of students with MSD, teachers’ training and experience, communication education for teachers, the presence of peers without disabilities, the mainstream classroom, other staff in the school context, resources, infrastructure, the culture, size and geographical location of the school, the home context, support from specialist personnel outside the school, including collaboration with speech-language pathologists, the role of government departments, and broader societal factors. There are complex, systemic influences on access to communicative interactions for students with MSD in mainstream school settings. Inadequate systemic supports restrict communicative interactions between students with MSD and their teachers and peers without disabilities, and limit the involvement of students with MSD in mainstream classroom activities. Further research is required with teachers of students with MSD to substantiate these preliminary findings.