Page 32 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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HUMAN rights
Children in South Africa face multiple environmental risks, including poverty and its many ramifications, family and community violence, and poor access to basic services related to health, education and justice.
The Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) in the Faculty of Humanities runs a multipronged research project aimed at understanding and addressing some of the risks children face, particularly children with severe communication disabilities.
In 2016, a study was conducted as a first step in developing a descriptive tool to measure trauma in young South African children, with support from postgraduate students in the Master’s in Early Childhood Intervention programme. Building on
earlier work, the aim of the 2016 study was to identify barriers experienced by children with severe communication disabilities in accessing the criminal justice system. This was done through a series of in- depth interviews and focus groups with professionals who work in the justice system, followed by a second part that focussed on the factors that could assist children with communication disabilities who have been victims of crime to access the South African criminal justice system.
Based on the findings, a disability sensitivity training programme for police officers was developed. The first phase of this project also included a systematic review of existing programmes, and a pilot study
to test the effectiveness of the programme that
had been developed. In the review of existing programmes, it was found that very few training programmes have been published and are open to external peer-review scrutiny, and that only in a few cases has their effectiveness been measured. This illustrates the importance of empirically-based tested police training programmes to equip police officers in effectively serving persons with disabilities, and especially children with communication disabilities, in an equitable and appropriate manner.
This project has been expanded to develop a three- phase court victim empowerment programme that can assist a victim with a communication disability, the victim’s family and the legal professionals during the court preparation process, while testifying
in court, and during the post-trial debriefing and counselling procedure.
The second intervention in 2016 focused on the development of a sexuality training programme for young women with intellectual disabilities, in an attempt to empower them and prevent victimisation and sexual abuse. This is an area often neglected
in intervention, due to the cumulative effects of negative social attitudes to the sexuality of women with intellectual disabilities, as well as the restrictive social perspectives of the sexuality of women in general. This project was based on the PhD work of Dr L Rathbone who graduated in 2016.
     The research project forms part of the Mellon-funded Faculty Research Theme in the Humanities, Enhancing the wellbeing of vulnerable children (2014–2016). Staff involved are: Professor Juan Bornman, Professor Shakila Dada, Dr Kerstin Tönsing, Dr Alecia Samuels, Dr Ensa Johnson, Refilwe Morwane, Robyn White, Karin van Niekerk, and Enid Moolman.
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