Dr. Catherine Crowley and Miriam Baigorri lead their graduate students in speech-language pathology at Teachers College Columbia University to Ghana each year to provide free services to people with communication disorders and to build capacity and exchange knowledge and skills with their colleagues in Ghana. This January 2013 three-day professional development retreat focused on Augmentation and Alternative Communication (AAC) including narrative stories, adapted from Carol Grey’s excellent work in “Social Stories”, word walls, and general education AAC materials, i.e., the calendar, schedules, and math. Fifty teachers from Ghana’s Unit Schools attended. Unit Schools are schools of about 2 or 3 classrooms for students with intellectual disabilities within general education schools. Ten general education teachers attended along with dignitaries from Ghana’s Ministry of Education Division of Special Education including Mr. Thomas Otaah, Mr. George Pat Takie, and Mr. Kobina Baidoo, and Ms. Sara Stryker of the United States Embassy in Accra, Ghana.

Thanks to the organizers, presenters and participants: Cate Crowley, Lindsay Milgram, Jayne Miranda, Jessica Baquero, Clement Ntim, George Odoi, Mary Osei, Belinda Bukari, Karen Wylie, Bianca Alomoto, Cindy Alves, Katrina Andres, Whitney Barnett, Kellianne Beers, Danielle Bonanni, Kiera Crowley, Molly Goodman, Henry Gordon, Amy Ishkanian, Kristine Kang, Christal Katapodis, Michelle Krovlev, Madeline Lasky, Hilary Rosenblum, Caitlin Ruderman, Gracelynn Sandoval, Kayla Scalesi, Alexandra Vargas, Athanasia Vasilopoulos, Jacqueline Webb, Elana Winters; and the extraordinary Unit School teachers and general education teachers who attended Obdiri Ledoal Frank, Anthony Vasco Damoa, James I.K. Yeboah, Berekoun Edward, Arongo Samuel, Doris Mensah, Maureen Asmah, Isaac Asante Frimpong, Anthony Mensah, Meshack, Kobina Baidoo, Charity Otu, Ivy Pinto, Regina Dzorfena Bredzei, Dugbaoe Daniel, Atsu Seprahine, Nkansah Oppong John, Regina Huagie, Vivien Tetteh, Alfred Huago, Jemima Peprah, Gharbin Gifty Akpene, Baniba E. Johnson, Felicity Letsu, Mensah Smile Kwaku, Johnson Katapu, Ruwom Paul, Padmore Quansah, Matthew Adu-Twum, Belinda Bukari, Boadzie Augustine, Abigail Adams, Ama Serwaah Asare, Doreen Araba Obu, Danah E. B., Benedict Cobbinal, Wuni Yidana, Emil Kofi Asiadze, Kenneth Dako, and Isaac Anamoah.

Many thanks for funding and support from the Wyncote Foundation, Central Coast Children’s Foundation, Teachers College Columbia University and Rotary International.

The English transcription for the video is below:

Cate Crowley: Hi my name is Cate Crowley. I am a distinguished senior lecturer here at Teacher’s College, Columbia University in the program of Speech-Language Pathology. I want to talk about a professional development retreat that we did with 50 unit school teachers and 10 general education teachers. Throughout Ghana there are 25 unit schools representing about 1,200 students with intellectual disabilities. So, we’ve worked with the unit school teachers for the past six years. We’ve done professional development for the past three years. At last years professional development retreat we did a survey of what they need, and they said they really need more materials. Educational materials. Teaching materials. Teaching resources. So, we brought that this year. We brought a schedule. We also introduced calendars. We brought one of those for every single teacher. We also brought a math activity with compartments for ones, tens, and hundreds, primarily used to count the days. In addition, in the afternoon we introduced word walls because they said they wanted more literacy materials. Sunday morning we introduced what we call our narrative stories.

Lindsay Milgram, CCC-SLP: “..Step by step instructions on how to do or interact in that social situation…”

Cate Crowley: We had one of the teachers who’d gone to Sweden, Mary Ose, to learn about vocational training for students with intellectual disabilities, speak to us. Clement Ntim talked about a four week teacher in residence and study tour that he did in Scotland. We gave time for teachers to come up who had gone to the previous professional development retreats to show how they had expanded or used what they had learned. So, for me, it was extremely gratifying to see that the teacher’s were not  just attending the conference, but actually taking the ideas and taking the strategies, and using them and expanding on them and making them better. About two hours before dinner on Saturday we gave time for teacher’s to make more materials. There was a ten minute break, and after than ten minutes the entire room was filled with every single teacher working to create more materials. One of our goals in our work in Africa, one is to provide speech and language services to people with communication disabilities, but it’s also to build capacity. We learn as much in those professional development retreats, I am sure, as the teachers learn from us, because there’s an extraordinary exchange of cultural information and teaching information that is where the magic happens.

Please find related materials here:

Narrative Stories Playlist

AAC Market Cards in Ghana Playlist

Communication Passports at the Sunyani Unit School in Ghana