Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis & Resolution


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Cheryl Duckworth

Second Advisor

Toran Hansen

Third Advisor

Claire-Michele Rice


AAC, communication, conflict, empowerment, identity


Individuals with communication impairments (CI) are at a distinct disadvantage when attempting to interact through more traditional conversational means. Although their intentions may be similar to peers, physical limitations make verbal articulation of thoughts and feelings a more laborious undertaking. For some, the use of external augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) has offered an otherwise unavailable communicative opportunity. However, this type of communication requires more of the non-AAC using conversation partner and, unlike traditional forms of communication, may increase the likelihood of miscommunication. Although there is agreement as to the importance of understanding the experience of individuals using external AAC, there is limited research in the area of miscommunication, conflict, and conflict resolution. This phenomenological study explored the experiences of six individuals who use external AAC devices. The purpose of this study was to address the following research questions:1) What are the conflict behaviors, beliefs, values, or thoughts of individuals using external AAC devices? 2) Does miscommunication between AAC and non-AAC users contribute to conflict? 3) Do identity standards and empowerment needs contribute to the development of conflict? and 4) For those using external AAC devices, what is the impact of, and what do successful resolutions mean? This study finds similarities in the interpersonal conflict experience of external AAC users and non-users. However there were differences in their experience with larger societal-level conflict. Understanding these areas of similarity and difference is beneficial to anyone who endeavors to support the interpersonal and societal level conflict resolution of this unique population.

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