What is Communicative Participation?

The construct of “participation” comes from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) (WHO, 2001).  Within the context of the ICF, “participation” refers to the nature and extent of an individual’s involvement in life situations (WHO, 2001).  Restrictions in participation represent the difficulties individuals can experience in life situations due to the circumstances of their health condition (WHO, 2001).  According to the ICF conceptual framework participation represents an individual’s participation in society and society’s response to either facilitating or hindering that participation.  Within the realm of communication, participation refers to the roles and activities that one chooses which involve communication within the context of daily life (WHO, 2001). 

Communicative effectiveness (how effective one perceives themselves as a communicator in social situations), communication apprehension (one’s level of fear or anxiety associated with real or anticipated communication with another person or persons) and communication-related quality of life can all be included within the construct of communicative participation. Measures of communication effectiveness, communication apprehension and communication-related quality of life can be used to document the communicative participation of persons with communication disorders. 

Understanding the participation dimension of functioning allows one to examine how an individual participates in social contexts. Obtaining information on communicative participation in populations with communication disorders is an essential, but often overlooked aspect in the research and clinical practice of speech-language pathology. In the absence of assessment data on communication effectiveness in social contexts, there can be a tendency to make clinical assumptions about the effectiveness of communication based on perceptual speech measures. Gathering information on communicative participation in addition to more traditionally based measures such as speech intelligibility has the potential to guide meaningful research questions and ensure contextually relevant communicative rehabilitation for individuals with communication disorders. 

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Contact Information

Allyson Dykstra, PhD
Director, CPL
Assistant Professor
School of Communication Sciences and Disorders
ext. 88940

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