How Practitioners’ Understanding of Dialogical Theory Can Enhance Co- Construction of Meaning and Support the Choice and Control of People Who Have Complex Communication Support Needs

  • Jacky Smith


People who have complex communication support do not have active choice and control in the process of defining how their lives are organised and the support that they receive, despite there being laws and recommendations in place from many bodies such as the United Nations or national governments. The tendency is that the expression of the needs and expectations originate in the opinion of the people closest to the person who has complex communication support needs, rather than from the person themselves. This problem is related to the fact that the dominant model of communication used in this context is based on information transfer and decoding, causing practitioners to regard the need to interpret and negotiate meaning as problematic and somehow differing from other communicative episodes.

This challenge can be met by using a dialogical approach where communication is seen as a process of negotiation where meaning is co-constructed through a sequence of interactions. In situations where practitioners are supported to apply dialogical theory in communication partnerships with people who have complex communication support needs, practitioners’ confidence in co-constructing meaning can grow and communication can be richer, supporting direct consultation.

This article seeks to explore and bring together relevant literature on these topics, highlighting the role of the dialogical approach within the context of the international human rights framework.