The prevalence of non-speaking children in special education is internationally
estimated to be 3,5-6%. To date very little demographic data is available for nonspeaking
children with regard to the prevalence, interaction needs and abilities.
This is reflected in the lack of adequate planning for integration into society,
economical self-sufficiency and full participation in the ordinary social life of the
In South Africa statistical information for this population is practically non-existent.
Available information is based on the medical model in which different etiologies
are emphasized, often with little or no reference as to how the disability influences
the functional communication of the individual in society. It is against this
background that the present study proposed to investigate the prevalence of severe
communication pathology in all registered schools for children with mental
handicaps in the Pretoria area, m order to assess the current need for AAC
intervention within these contexts.
The present study is demographic in nature. Two questionnaires were developed
and were completed by classroom teachers in conjunction with fieldworkers. All
children in registered schools for children with mental handicaps between the ages
of 3 - 12 years were included. The applicability of the questionnaires was tested
by means of a pilot study prior to the main study. The first questionnaire was used
to collect personal data from the 55 teachers who were included in the study. The
second one was used to obtain information on the 412 children by discussing their
abilities in all the different skill areas ( cognitive, motor, sensory, communication
and social), functional reading, writing and mathematical abilities. In addition, the
children's exposure to therapy (speech, occupational and physiotherapy) was
described. Results indicate that the non-speaking children in schools for children with mental
handicaps in the Pretoria area constitute a large population (38,3 % ) with heterogeneous
characteristics and abilities. Furthermore it was noted that the nonspeaking
children received considerably less therapy than the speaking children
regardless of the fact that these children need intensive, specialized therapy and
AAC services. It also shows that professionals (teachers and therapists) need
knowledge and skill training in AAC strategies.
This study was the first step in determining the prevalence and characteristics of
non-speaking children in schools for children with mental handicaps in the Pretoria
area. Information obtained from this survey can therefore be used as a basis from
which to project and plan service delivery to this underserved population.
Dissertation (MCommunication Pathology)--University of Pretoria, 1995.