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Identity and meaning-making in children with primary speech/language impairments

Lyons, Rena

Identity and meaning-making in children with primary speech/language impairments Thumbnail


Rena Lyons


Primary speech and language impairment (PSLI) is a term used to describe children with a range of significant speech and language impairments, in the context of normal cognitive abilities. The aims of this thesis were firstly to explore identity construction in children with PSLI, and secondly to explore how these children made sense of their experiences.

Narrative inquiry was used to conduct this study. The participants were 11 children aged 9-12 years-old, presenting with PSLI. The aim was to generate storied accounts of events and happenings in their lives using interviews, supplemented with visual methods. An innovative analytical framework was designed, drawing on a range of narrative analytical methods, including an analysis of verbal and nonverbal evaluation markers, cohesion markers, as well as an analysis of agency and identities presented in the children’s narratives.

The key findings were four interrelated themes, which were conceptualised in a working model comprising facilitators and potential barriers to well-being and belonging. The four themes which contributed to well-being and belonging included: relationships; autonomy, agency, and competence; identities of belonging and difference; and hope and concern for the future. Facilitators of well-being and belonging were life events and experiences that the children evaluated in positive ways, whereas potential barriers were life events and experiences which they evaluated in negative ways. Although some children evaluated their experiences in mixed and sometimes contradictory ways, their evaluations were predominantly positive.

This thesis contributes to the field in four ways. Firstly, it provides new insights into identity construction in children with PSLI. Secondly, it adds to understandings of ways in which children conceptualise communication impairment. Thirdly, it deepens understandings of the determinants of well-being and belonging in children with PSLI. Finally, this thesis highlights the value of narrative inquiry as a means for listening to the voices of children with communication impairments.


Lyons, R. Identity and meaning-making in children with primary speech/language impairments. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2019
Public URL
Award Date Apr 3, 2014


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