Many adults with intellectual disability are unable to meet their everyday communication needs due to various communication difficulties. Opportunities for meaningful social interactions, self-determination and community participation are thus significantly restricted. Support staff working within residential facilities for adults with intellectual disability play an important role in facilitating and interpreting the adult’s communication as staff frequently interact with the adults. Studies have found that AAC strategies and tools prove effective in supporting the understanding and use of language in adults with ID, however the success of AAC intervention rests on the extent to which it is implemented and maintained by those interacting with and supporting them. The aim of this research is to describe the communication skills, resources and needs of adults with intellectual disability living in residential facilities in the Western Cape and their support staff, as reported by facility managers. Managers of 19 residential facilities for adults with ID in the Western Cape agreed to complete a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire was developed based on a range of both local and international previous studies and aimed to gain information pertaining to the (1) background of the facility and adults (2) communication- and related skills of the adults (3) communication skills of the care staff working directly with the adults as well as (4) current availability of communication-related resources and support for the adults and staff. The results obtained indicated that approximately a third of nearly 1000 adults with ID were unable to communicate effectively. Adults with no or limited functional speech most often relied on informal, unaided AAC strategies to communicate requiring interpretation from the care staff. Facility managers reported most care staff used a variety of practices that facilitated communication. Furthermore, aided and unaided AAC strategies and tools to support comprehension were implemented by some of the facilities which were obtained from individuals or organisations knowledgeable in AAC. However, few facilities implemented a formal mode of aided or unaided AAC to support expressive language due to a variety of environmental barriers relating to a lack of staff skill and knowledge as well as limited access to appropriate professions such as speech-language therapy for AAC related training or support. More than three quarters of participants indicated that was some or an extensive need for training pertaining to communication support. Broadly, a need exists for (1) aided AAC to support the comprehension and expression of language for adults with ID in residential facilities (2) staff to obtain knowledge and skills in more formal AAC strategies through ongoing training as well as (3) access to professionals who are knowledgeable and skilled in AAC to provide individualised support to the adults and guidance to the multi-disciplinary team supporting the communication skills of the adults.
Mini Dissertation (MA)--University of Pretoria, 2019.