Dr Ulrika Ferm from Sweden visits the CAAC

Posted on February 15, 2018

The word “communication” is derived from the Latin “communicare” which means “to share”  and that is exactly what Dr Ferm did in five days : presenting five expert lectures, meeting 100 students, visiting two schools for children with disability and discussing research methodology with 15 researchers!

Dr. Ulrika Ferm, Director of DART Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology (AT) and Associate Professor in Linguistics from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden, visited the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) from the 31 January to the 7 February 2018.

During her visit, she presented a seminar to the CAAC’s PhD students “AAC to support communication between children and parents with a neurodegenerative disease” highlighting interaction analysis, as well as an expert lecture to the Masters in Early Childhood Intervention students entitled : “Activity based interaction analysis and threats to recording in the home context.” After the lectures students were complimentary and stated “This presentation stimulated great thoughts!” and “I learnt a lot – thank you!” attesting to the value added benefits of incorporating international experts during lectures. Both of these student groups were attending their week-long contact sessions at the Hatfield Campus.

Dr. Ferm also visited the Speech and Audiology Department at Kalafong Hospital in Pretoria where she gave a presentation focussed on DART’S recent project “KomHIT Flykting” (Come Here Refugee). This project provides pictorial sheets with written text for people who have been forced to flee to Sweden in different languages in order to support communication in health care and dental care. These picture-based resources have great appeal in the multi-lingual, multi-cultural South African context, and Dr Ferm explained that this is a free web-based resource.

This whirlwind visit next took Dr Ferm to Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) Speech Therapy and Audiology Department where she gave an interactive lecture to 60 students and staff focussing on beginning communication strategy and the important role of primary caregivers in facilitating this through responsivity. We trust that this lecture sparked the flames for some innovative research projects.

In order to contextualize parent training in South Africa, two school visits were undertaken: one to Pathways Pretoria where AAC classroom implementation blooms abundantly, showing well-used communication books and innovative communication board, and another visit to Ntuthuko Stimulation Centre in Soshanguve  where students from SMU will soon start to implement AAC in the classrooms.

The final lecture was to staff at the Centre for AAC to discuss the use of free web-based resources for different contexts, focussing on health-related topics as well as on violence-prevention. The later is linked to Dr Ferm’s appointment as a co-supervisor alongside Prof. Juan Bornman for a Swedish PhD Student, Amanda Nyberg, who is pursuing her research at the CAAC.  We trust that this visit was the first of many more to come and we look forward to future collaboration with Dr Ferm and her team at DART.

Dr Ferm definitely understands communication – and for that she deserves a high five!

- Author Prof. Juan Bornman
Published by Jacoba Odendaal

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