Thesis submitted for M.A. (Education), April 2010 by Diana James.

Paget Gorman Signed Speech (PGSS) is a method of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) that uses both signing and the spoken word to support a person’s ability to communicate. The system is most commonly used in specialist language units and schools as a learning tool for children with specific language impairments (SLI). There have been very few recent studies of the effect of PGSS upon the communicative development of children with SLI. This dissertation presents the results of a case study of the use of PGSS in a Special School in scaffolding the receptive and expressive language skills of pupils with SLI and also its effectiveness in supporting different styles of learning in order to improve the pupils’ levels of attention.

The effectiveness of the PGSS system in supporting receptive and expressive language was examined before and after using a teaching programme that involved learning new vocabulary with and without the use of PGSS. The opinionsof a focus group of professionals who work with pupils with SLI were evaluated, together with the results of questionnaires presented to the pupils themselves and their parents. Levels of attention were assessed using structured observations during a story session that incorporated PGSS and one that did not. A variety of techniques, including piloting and triangulation, were employed throughout the study to ensure that reliable and valid data were gathered.

Analysis of the data indicated that when PGSS is used with pupils with SLI it can have a positive effect on scaffolding both receptive and expressive language skills. As a learning tool it supports the understanding, learning and use of new concept vocabulary at a single word level. The research recommended that further assessment be carried out in to its effectiveness in supporting language at a higher level of complexity such as in a phrase, in a sentence or in a narrative.
Finally, data relating to the use of PGSS in improving attention levels revealed a clear difference between those who found or considered it effective and those for whom it was a distraction.