Research Projects

Speech and Language Delays in Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders in South Africa

A collaborative research project between the Centre for AAC (Project Leader Prof Juan Bornman) and CRADL, Georgia State University, USA (Project Leaders: Proff Mary Ann Romski and Rose Sevcik)

The main aim of the research is to identify and characterize speech and language delays in children with neuro-developmental disorders across language backgrounds in South Africa. The identification of speech and language delays in this group of children will permit us to identify commonalities and differences across languages so that we can implement interventions specific to receptive and expressive language needs and ameliorate the impact of these difficulties on the child’s long-term development and functioning. We will further our understanding of neuro-developmental disorders by specifying how language background influences the child’s growth and development. 

In order to address the main aim, this research will aim to identify and pilot a common set of relevant developmental and language assessment tools (standardized, parental report, and observational) on four cohorts of children, viz Afrikaans, English, Setswana and isiZulu-speaking children.

Dr. E Jonhson


Shared Decision-Making in a Multicultural Society: Supporting Children with Cancer with Symptom Management (PI: Dr E Johnson) (2019-2021)

This is a National Research Foundation (NRF), Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) as well as the South African Swedish University Forum (SASUF) funded project. This study is done in partnership with CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa and the Swedish Childhood Foundation.

The main aim of the project is to enable all children with cancer and/or children with communicative disabilities to communicate their symptoms, to fulfil person-centred care using a child perspective, to promote children with cancer’s coping, health and well-being. To achieve this aim, the mHealth tool, PicPecc will be developed and implemented with the input from various stakeholders.

Phase 1 entails different stages of data collection, e.g., systematic reviews; a survey to determine Internet access of South African patients and their families when in hospital or at home; adaptations to some data collection tools and focus groups or individual interviews with stakeholders (children with cancer, caregivers and healthcare professionals) to inform the development of the e-health communication support tool (PicPecc). Thereafter the tool will be developed and piloted. Phase 2 will entail an intervention study using the PicPecc tool with children with cancer.


Prof. K. Tonsing


Kerstin Current research projects

Persons from non-English backgrounds in need of AAC are still marginalised in access to appropriate intervention, and a lack of linguistically appropriate AAC systems is one contributing factor. Prof Kerstin Tönsing has been collaborating with colleagues from UP, the CSIR (Meraka Institute, Human Language Technology Research Group) and students to conduct studies laying the groundwork for the development of AAC systems in various non-English South African languages. The group conducted descriptive studies on the perceptions of service providers and persons with severe communication disabilities themselves. Findings underlined the urgent need for AAC system  development to give access to non-English languages. Vocabulary studies in isiZulu, Sepedi and Afrikaans resulted in vocabulary frequency lists that can be used as a resource for the construction of AAC systems that require preselected vocabulary. The text-to-speech voices in the 11 official South African languages developed by colleagues at the Meraka Institute at the CSIR have been evaluated by persons with severe communication disabilities. The development of an isiZulu picture-based AAC system in collaboration with a Master’s alumna and person with severe communication disabilities is currently underway.


Dr A. Samuels


Alecia research project for the web


Alecia Samuels is an early intervention and disability researcher. Her current research which is funded by a grant from the Mellon foundation, is focused on enhancing the engagement of children with and without special support needs in early childhood education classrooms by improving the instructional quality of early childhood practitioners. This research explores the possibility of using mobile delivered interventions to early childhood practitioners, similar to interventions such as MomConnect and NurseConnect. Most people in South Africa have access to a cellphone and interventions delivered via mobile technology have been found to be an effective methodology in a few studies.





Published by John Mahlangu

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