The study identifies the increase in populations at risk for communication disorders world-wide and in South Africa as one the reasons for research to develop early communication intervention (ECI) services as a societal responsibility in South Africa. Since ECI is largely an unknown entity in the South African health system, but shares several mutual objectives, the dire need for data of populations at-risk validates the development of a computer-based relational data system as a 21st century research tool for ECI. Underpinnings for the development of a research database for ECI were obtained from the use of database management systems for early intervention in the USA, identified as leaders in the application of database technology in the field of Speech-Language Pathology. The aim of the study was to develop and establish a computerized database system to describe the characteristics of young children at risk for communication disorders enrolled in an existing ECI programme. Using a descriptive survey as research design, a rich description of 153 subjects and their families was obtained. The findings relating to the multiple risk profiles of the subjects revealed results not extensively described or emphasized in the literature, indicating the in-depth analysis of results that is possible when utilizing a database approach to research. The complex risk profile found in the subgroup of subjects with cleft lip and palate is an example of a need for further investigation. The results also indicated the critical importance of early identification of risk events throughout a child’s life to improve the efficacy of ECI services. Further results emphasized the important role of parents to identify the early signs of risks for communication disorders in their children, provided they are equipped with the necessary knowledge. A conceptual framework for the early identification of risks for communication disorders is proposed for best practice in ECI in South Africa. The study concluded that the CHRIB database system was successfully applied in the empirical research and is now established as a versatile 21st century research tool to be utilized in second generation research in ECI in South Africa.
Thesis (DPhil(Communication Pathology))--University of Pretoria, 2005.