International Journal of Qualitative Methods
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Scant information is available to guide the selection and modification of methods for doing research with people with communication impairments. In this article, we describe and illustrate a novel combination of methods used to optimize data generation in research with 13 disabled youth who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Using a critical dialogical methodology developed for the study, we explored links between dominant calls for social inclusion, disabled youths’ social relations and life circumstances, and their position-takings in relation to inclusion. Building on emergent methodologies, we selected and integrated complementary methods: photo-elicitation, a graphic elicitation method termed “Belonging Circles,” observations, and interviews. The interview methods were modified to recognize all AAC modes used by participants and to acknowledge the relational, situated and thus, dialogical nature of all communication in interviews. Each method is described, and rationales for their selection and modification are discussed. Processes used to combine the methods, generate data, and guide analysis are illustrated using a case example from the study. The integrated methods helped illuminate the lives and practices of youth who use AAC and the strategies they used to negotiate inclusion across the social spaces that they traversed. We conclude with reflections on the strengths and limitations of our approach, future directions for development of the methodology, and its potential use in research with a broad range of persons experiencing communication impairments.