Dr Michal Harty

Head of Division, Senior Lecturer


  • B. Comm Path (UP) 
  • M(AAC) UP 
  • PhD (UP)


Speech and Language Therapy

Teaching area

Communication development in children with developmental disabilities; Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Teaching course

Child Language development and difficulties, assessment and management of communication for  children with developmental disabilities.


Broadly speaking my research focuses on the following 3 themes:

Family-focused intervention programs and supports
Early intervention has a positive effect on both the developmental outcomes of a child with disability, as well as the well-being of the whole family. However, to provide a family with the correct level of support, professionals need to have readily available tools to document current functioning of children and their parents, as well as several interventions with can provide varying degrees of support to families. I have recently completed a systematic review of parent training studies to determine whether these programs can improve parenting self-efficacy. Findings indicate that group-based parent training programs have a significant positive impact on parenting self-efficacy of parents of young children with developmental disabilities. Together with a current masters’ student I am investigating the feasibility of a group-based parent training program (developed for the South African context) which teaches 4 strategies to enhance communication to parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Initial evidence suggests that this training program can increase parenting self-efficacy levels. I am also co-supervising a PhD scholar who is working in Zambia on family needs and available support for Zambian families of children with ASD. 

Communication interventions in the SA context
It is widely acknowledged that much of intervention-focused research in the field of developmental disability is designed and implemented in developed country contexts. Since the body of research within the South African context is limited much of the research conducted in this area explores the feasibility of intervention strategies (such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and intervention approaches (such as Enhanced Milieu Teaching) in various settings within South Africa. My research investigates the implementation of communication interventions which are applicable in the South African context. Throughout this research, there is a focus on the concept of task shifting (or training others such as teachers or parents to provide interventions), which is particularly relevant in contexts where a speech language therapist may not be present. Findings demonstrate that EMT is effective in improving the spoken language outcomes of minimally verbal children with Autism when implemented in a school context. Currently we are exploring bilingual parent’s perceptions of the applicability of EMT for their children with developmental disabilities, as well demonstrating the effectiveness of EMT, when implemented in the home context

Participation of individuals with disabilities and their key communication partners
Communication competence is well known to have a positive impact on a child’s academic and social development, however little research has investigated the attitudes and perceptions of various familiar communication partners (particularly siblings and parents) towards participation in various everyday life activities with individuals with a disability. This area of my research uses the International Classification of Functioning framework (a bio-psycho-social framework to describe health and disability) to describe these perspectives on participation in everyday activities


Awards & Honours

  • Organization for Autism Research (OAR) grant entitled: EMT in South Africa: Training Speech Language Therapists in Early Intervention for Children with ASD: An applied pilot study. in collaboration with Professor Ann Kaiser and colleagues from Vanderbilt University (2018-2019). Role: SA collaborator
  • Vanderbilt International Office Category B grant entitled: Exploring the Needs for [Enhanced Milieu] Language Intervention in South Africa in collaboration with Professor Ann Kaiser and colleagues (2015). Role: SA collaborator.
  • Vanderbilt International Office Category A grant entitled: Exploring the Needs for [Enhanced Milieu] Language Intervention in South Africa in collaboration with Professor Ann Kaiser and colleagues (2013). Role: SA collaborator.


  • CARA: Centre for Autism Research in Africa: 2016 – present: Member
  • ISEI: International Society on Early Intervention: 2009 – present: Member.
  • INSAR: International Society for Autism Research (INSAR): 2017 – present: Member
  • MMIRA: Mixed Methods International Research Association: 2017– present: Member
  • SASHLA: South African Speech, Language and Hearing Association: 2008 – present: Member
  • SAACAPAP: South African Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions: 2017: Member



Research Gate