Occupational Therapy Research Day Showcases Useful Student Research
The winning project presented by a group of four Honours students at the Discipline of Occupational Therapy’s Annual Research Day will be presented again at the upcoming Young Health Scientists Research Symposium, an interdisciplinary competition held annually by UKZN’s School of Health Sciences.
Ms Dominque de Klerk, Ms Nthabiseng Masekela, Ms Rochelle Romer and Ms Romaana Abdul-Hamid impressed the adjudicators with a study investigating how the physical and social environment of a well-resourced crèche in eThekwini influenced play among children between the ages of three and four years.
The Discipline’s Research Day is an annual academic event which showcases the research expertise and skills of emerging researchers in the field.
The winning four-person study was supervised by Head of Occupational Therapy Professor Kitty Uys together with Ms Deshni Naidoo who lectures in the Discipline.
Naidoo said the study provided valuable insights into factors affecting children’s ability to play. ‘The findings can contribute to planning early childhood development interventions. Furthermore, the study raised the question about using Western development norms for play versus South African norms’.
The study highlighted the influence of the physical and social environment on children’s playfulness. Participants in the study engaged in onlooking and parallel play with limited associative play indicating a delay in the children’s social interaction/social play. Examining the caregiver-child ratio revealed that having too many children under care resulted in missed opportunities when playfulness could have been promoted, and highlighted the need for caregivers to be trained to promote play among children.
Despite having playground objects and equipment, playfulness was not always promoted as participants frequently focused on the objects rather than engaging in social play with each other. The participants received social cues but had difficulty in giving and interpreting cues from other children, which further inhibited their ability to engage in social play. This has implications for the implementation of therapy. The study also highlighted the importance of making adaptations to the playground to promote interaction and social play.
Guest speaker, Dr Mvuselelo Ngoya, a Development Studies Lecturer at UKZN, encouraged students to continue on their path to research excellence and to do so being cognisant that the communities in which research is conducted should also benefit.
Ngoya’s concern was that members of communities that participate in studies often have a negative impression of researchers who perceive them not as knowledge producers but as research subjects. Ngoya emphasised that research should be used as a tool for empowering both researcher and research participants.
The students also presented on a range of other topics including intergenerational perceptions of life in Mariannridge post-gangsterism, and reasons for low employment rates in people with physical disabilities in the eThekwini District.
Ms Kezaih Freimond, a third-year class representative, said her cohort was inspired by the work they saw and looked forward to their Research Day in 2015.