Advances in neonatal medicine during the past 35 years have led to the survival of more
preterm infants than ever before. The focus of the management of preterm infants has
consequently shifted from survival to providing for developmental needs, from as early as
possible. The increased prevalence of at-risk infants born in South Africa necessitates the
appropriate implementation of neonatal communication intervention (NCI) programmes.
Since mothers do not always return to health care facilities for follow-up services but are
available during the neonatal period, the speech-language therapist should assist them with
feeding development, mother-infant attachment and reciprocal communication interaction.
The paediatric audiologist should reduce noise levels in the neonatal intensive care unit
(NICU) to protect neonatal hearing, conduct a hearing screening test within the first month
of life and train parents to create the appropriate auditory environment that will facilitate
listening and language development.
Audiologists and speech-language therapists need to be fully competent and well-trained in
providing NCI, so that their services in the unique multicultural and multilingual South
African context can become increasingly effective. The aim of the study was to describe the
self-perceived skills and needs of South African audiologists and speech-language
therapists regarding NCI.
A triangulation mixed model research design, which entails a combination of quantitative
and qualitative research techniques, was used. A descriptive survey was employed to
describe the self-perceived skills and needs in NCI of 73 participating South African
audiologists and/or speech-language therapists. The results of this study indicated that participants experienced the greatest difficulty with
and the least confidence in feeding intervention. The participants perceived their skills in
communication intervention, neonatal hearing intervention and general collaborative tasks
in NCI to be better than their skills in feeding intervention. Some of the participants did not
recognise their vital role in kangaroo mother care (KMC), although it is the ideal entry point
for the implementation of NCI programmes. The participants identified needs in terms of
knowledge and skills regarding feeding intervention, developmental care and KMC. The
majority indicated that they perceived their level of practical training as lacking, and that any
training in NCI should include practical aspects.
It was also found that the participants’ current profession and their professional qualification
significantly influenced their reported skills in feeding, communication and neonatal hearing
intervention. The more recently qualified participants and those with more clinical
experience also reported greater confidence in and less difficulty with feeding and
communication intervention, as well as with general neonatal intervention tasks.
The findings of this study emphasise the need for audiologists and speech-language
therapists to use KMC as the entry point for NCI services. Training in early communication
intervention (ECI) and NCI at an undergraduate level should be expanded to include more
practical activities, and may need to be standardised across tertiary institutions in South
Africa. Professionals working in neonatal settings should also participate in professional
development courses that include practical application of learnt skills. Through these
activities, NCI services to the paediatric population may reach the necessary standard of
Dissertation (MComm Path)--University of Pretoria, 2015.