A pioneering project to facilitate communication and empowerment of youth with severe communication difficulties
It is hard to imagine how difficult it is to control one’s life if you are unable to communicate. People can’t understand what you want or feel and it renders you unable to participate in many of the community and workplace activities. You thus become totally dependent on others in a situation where you might be totally able to fend for yourself – if only you had sufficient opportunities to develop supports to enable you to function independently.
This year nine young adults with severe communication difficulties (representing 5 provinces) and their personal assistants participated in the training program and they all form part of the FOFA program (which means “to Fly” in Northern Sotho). The specific objectives of the training program were:
- To improve participants’ personal communication using communication devices;
- To expose participants to options for employment and independent living;
- To facilitate the development of empowerment and leadership skills.
The FOFA Project is the first of its kind in Africa and started in September 2005 with the intention of making it a long-term project, with extension to other provinces. After the training week, held at the University of Pretoria, the participants were supported by community-based support persons in their respective areas. “We focus on integrating youth with and without disabilities into the community by encouraging them to develop strategies for facilitating better interaction and understanding between peers” says Prof Uys
“With this project, we are able to assist young people with cognitive ability, but no access to communication, to participate in a meaningful way in society,” says Prof Kitty Uys, Project leader. “Not only do we focus on intensive training, but we provide participants with an appropriate PC based communication system to enable them to reach out to others.”
For further information, please contact:
Prof Kitty Uys, (Project Leader) Tel: (012) 420 2001 / 012 420 3851