Keynote Speakers

  • Douglas Maynard (University of Madison-Wisconsin): "Studying Atypical Interactions: Where Have We Been, and Where Do We Go from Here?"
  • Charlotta Plejert (Linköping University): "Dementia in a time of migration. Aspects of language, interaction, and cognition"
  • Michael Clarke (University College London): "Re-examining asymmetry, timing and competence in conversations involving children with disabilities provided with communication devices"


Douglas Maynard: "Studying Atypical Interactions: Where Have We Been, and Where Do We Go from Here?"

The analytic themes of this conference highlight communicative impairment, “participation” in interaction, and the “agency” of participants. In my talk, I first give a brief statement about my Ethnomethodological Conversation Analytic approach to these themes. Second, the “we” in my title is deliberately ambiguous. I cannot presume to speak on behalf of the community of researchers and specialists who are contributors to this conference. However, I do discuss the collaborations involved in our own studies of testing and diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders – where “we” have been, and where “we” are going with this project. Third, this means reviewing our narrative approach to testing and diagnosis, exploring the lacunae regarding competence that show up in diagnostic outcomes, and proposing how to remediate these lacunae through alliances that are aimed to affect the design and use of such instruments as the Autism Diagnostic and Observation Schedule or ADOS. In the end, I will try to broaden the “we” in my title by referencing other practical efforts to bring interaction-based research to bear on what participation can mean for both “typical” and “atypical” agents.

Charlotta Plejert: "Dementia in a time of migration. Aspects of language, interaction, and cognition"

In 2017, nearly one fifth (19%) of the EU population was aged 65 and more, thus reaching an age at which the risk of developing dementia increases. Among them are people who migrated to and within Europe during the 1960s and 1980s, people who have migrated due to war and political instability, as well as people who migrate as a result of globalization more generally. The number of people of a migrant background with dementia is therefore predicted to rise dramatically in Europe in the next few decades. Present-day research has identified several areas which are particularly challenging in relation to dementia care and support for people of a migrant background, not just in Europe, but worldwide. These challenges include 1) Differences in help-seeking behaviours, 2) A higher prevalence of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in people of a non-western background in comparison to native inhabitants, 3) A lack of culturally and linguistically adapted diagnostic tools and routines in dementia assessments, 4) How to develop culturally sensitive short- and long-term care.

It is important that all members of society, including people of a migrant background, have access to good dementia care. This goal has not yet been reached. Appropriate care provision is made manifest in and through language and interaction. Dementia care in our time is characterized by cultural and linguistic diversity, also when it comes to the background of care providers. This generates complex and dynamic arenas of social encounters at all stages of the dementia disease. In this talk, drawing on Conversation Analysis, ethnographic fieldwork, and interviews, carried out within the framework of Centre for Dementia Research (CEDER) in Sweden, over a period of eight years, the above mentioned issues are illuminated. Several examples are presented, representing different steps that occur along a dementia pathway, from help-seeking, dementia assessment, to residential care. It should be stressed that dementia in relation to migration is of course not only about challenges. Cultural diversity is a great asset in the development of appropriate care and support, also highlighted in this talk.

Michael Clarke: "Re-examining asymmetry, timing and competence in conversations involving children with disabilities provided with communication devices"

This paper draws together and presents key themes in research concerned with conversations involving children provided with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.

The term AAC is used to refer to forms of communication that supplement or replace speech and/or reading and/or writing. AAC is typically classified as ‘unaided’, such as sign systems and gestures, and ‘aided’ which refers to communication books, charts and speech generating devices. In clinical support services, aided and unaided AAC options are considered for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities who have little or no functional speech.

While aided AAC tools are ‘provided for the child’, conversation analytic studies have begun to illuminate ways in which aided AAC use in conversation is an inherently distributed business, incorporating the co-ordinated design and positioning of vocal and embodied actions of all active participants. Within this work, three broad interlinked themes can be discerned.

The first of these concerns the commonly observed asymmetry of conversational interaction, which is often characterised as extended sequences of questions and answers by the ‘typical’ speaker and child provided with aided AAC, respectively. These asymmetrical patterns have traditionally been viewed as a detrimental consequence of the child’s speech impairment, inherent difficulties with operating aided AAC systems, and ‘typical’ speaking participants’ drive to adopt a conversational metric common to their everyday interactions. Through the lens of conversation analysis (CA) however, asymmetry may be seen, at times, as an effective adaptation that provides some sustainable advantage for both participants.

A second prominent theme, also noted above, concerns tension between the operational demands of aided AAC, in particular extensive time required to find and ‘speak’ appropriate vocabulary etc., and the normally faster metric of conversational interaction between ‘typical’ speakers. This is commonly viewed as a major problem. While not dismissing difficulties associated with the slowness of aided AAC use, detailed sequential analysis has begun to highlight how issues of slowness are not uniform, and how they may or may not be consequential to the interaction.

Thirdly, as aided AAC tools are intended to enhance children’s communication capacity and support language growth, clinicians are charged with determining the outcomes of AAC provision, in part at least, through evaluations of children’s competence. CA’s micro level sequential analysis has provided fascinating insights into ways in which the participants realise, and display together, competencies that far exceed judgements based on decontextualized measures of AAC mediated language use.

In gaining access to the nuanced intricacies of these interactions we may begin to see how practices that are not typically part of privileged systems of meaning making can, in fact, be meaningful, and how neuro-difference emerges and dissolves in these participants’ interactions, moment-by-moment.