Ethnographic and micro-ethnographic techniques were used to investigate how the strategies employed by two adults (a mother and a physical therapist) to initiate and maintain interactions with a 2-year-old child with multiple disabilities were reflective of the adult partner's beliefs and values about communication in general and about this child in particular. Results indicate that the physical therapist believed in using the child's existing abilities as the primary reference point for establishing a speech community with the child. The mother used the demands of the larger, mostly nondisabled speech community as her primary reference point. How these differences affect the nature of the child's membership and level of independence in these speech communities is discussed.

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