Disability Support Unit Hosts Capacity-Building Workshop
UKZN’s Disability Support Unit (DSU) hosted a capacity-building workshop on the Zoom platform for staff on Thursday, 26 November 2020.
Audiologist and speech therapist Ms Fatima Timol examined the Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), a condition that affects a person’s ability to understand sounds, including the spoken word. ‘People with APD may hear speech as garbled,’ said Timol.
‘It can manifest as poor listening skills, poor reading comprehension or lots of miscommunication,’ she said, which might have consequences at home, at school or university, or in the workplace. ‘It can cause trouble with your co-workers, your partners, your family and friends,’ she said.
The causes of APD include hereditary abnormalities, developmental disorders and traumatic brain injury.
‘The hallmark deficit is difficulty listening in the presence of background noise,’ said Timol. Symptoms include mishearing things, struggling to remember spoken information and trouble taking notes and listening at the same time.
Lecture venues with lots of background noise and poor acoustics can be challenging for students with APD. Timol suggested a simple solution of placing a carpet where the lecturer stands to improve the acoustics in the room and keeping the classroom reasonably quiet. She recommended using over the ear headphones when listening to online lectures to block out ambient noise.
Timol, who previously worked at UKZN’s Audiology Department and is currently in private practice, advised lecturers to relook at how lectures were presented, slowdown their rate of speech, use repetition, rephrase and keep messages shorter. She also recommended that students have their hearing assessed regularly.
UKZN’s Disability Co-ordinator on the Westville campus Dr Faaiza Shaikh, who has been diagnosed with APD, relayed the difficulties experienced by a student on the Westville campus during lockdown. Challenges included background noises and interruptions in the home environment and attending lectures online. Shaikh said the student used earplugs, studied at a library near her home and emailed lecturers for clarity after Zoom online sessions.
The branch manager of the Down Syndrome Association KZN (DSA-KZN), Ms Angie Govindsami, presented on Understanding Down Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities.
Govindsami, who is the mother of a child with Down syndrome, spoke on the characteristics and risks of developing Down syndrome. She said that children with the condition exhibited speech difficulties and slower developmental milestones.
Govindsami said that DSA-KZN establishes and promotes support for people with Down syndrome and their families to enable them to reach their full potential. She stressed the importance of accepting Down syndrome children into the family and involving them in day-to-day activities for the growth and development of the child. ‘Life is about abilities and not disabilities,’ she said.
She said the organisation needed financial assistance as they had been operating with a zero balance for several years. She appealed to the University community to get involved and contribute to helping families affected by Down syndrome in the province.
DSU Co-ordinator on the Pietermaritzburg campus Mr Mongezi Zondo focused on conflict in the workplace by airing informative videos including: Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace: How to be a Rockstar Leader in your Industry. The video highlighted how conflict can be sparked by personality clashes and interdependence. ‘Sadly, most people never learn the art of resolving differences and turning them into successful conversations; which can trap them in a life of angst, negativity and bitterness,’ said the narrator.
The second video, a TedX talk titled: Conflict - Use It, Don’t Defuse It, presented by CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke, introduced the revolutionary concept of viewing conflict as an energy source for creativity, innovation and transformation.
Both videos were well received by the online audience who strongly recommended that University colleagues view them as the tips and advice they relayed could be very useful in the work environment.
The links to the videos:
• Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace: How to be a Rock Star Leader in your Industry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7-bbd1F9bk
• Conflict - Use It, Don’t Defuse It: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o97fVGTjE4w
The workshop was hosted by Shaikh, Zondo and Mr Nevil Balakrishna.
Words: Raylene Captain Hasthibeer