The Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC), at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, has over the past 15 years endeavoured to impact on the lives of people with little or no functional speech and their families by promoting AAC strategies. As the CAAC is committed to the integration of community service, formal training and research, the CAAC has embarked on a new project to develop a training program for young adults with severe communication problems to focus on the facilitation of the development of leadership and empowerment skills for independence and to increase their employability.
It is against this background that the FOFA project (which means “to fly” in Northern Sotho) was developed. Youth between ages of 18-35 were approached to participate. Seven young adults currently form part of the project together with their personal assistance that will be trained as their support systems when they leave the training.
The training program is based on the Augmentative Communication and Empowerment Supports (ACES) model developed at Temple University, Philadelphia, as a method to teach participants about AAC and disability rights (Bryen, Sleseransky & Baker, 1995). This program has been adapted for the South African context and unique barriers.
As most of these participants were not exposed to the use of communication devices, the content of the training was divided to focus on the following three main components: 60% communication competence, 25% empowerment and 15% employment issues. The culmination of these three topics is in the practical application of “Dare to Dream”. Participants are guided in future planning by employing the knowledge gained throughout the training.
Training is presented by staff of the CAAC, disability stakeholders, and relevant government officials (for example, labour consultants) to ensure attendants’ exposure to relevant networks and skill building. The program is a 1-week immersion training per year with follow-up support through telephone contact. The culmination of the training is the formal presentation by participants on the last day. Here they have the platform to demonstrate the skills they gained through the training and also inform the audience about their experiences, new discoveries and future dreams.
“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” - Prof Uys
Should you wish to help support this project or one of the participants please contact
Prof Kitty Uys - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel 012 420 3851 or 012 420 2001