Today we visited our first Unit School. It is at the Effiduasi Methodist School where Belinda Bukari, with whom Dr. Crowley has been working for six years, teaches students with intellectual disabilities and autism. Through her hard work in establishing educational services for children with intellectual disabilities in Ghana, Belinda has helped to reduce the social stigma against people with disabilities. Dr. Crowley has supported this effort by providing classroom supplies and professional development sessions. We were all excited to see the school grounds for the first time, which we had seen before only in pictures and videos.
We met Belinda and her students, and as we walked into the classroom, we immediately saw the work that Belinda had done over the years using various materials and supplies which Dr. Crowley, the SLP students, and supervisors from TC had donated. Once we settled into the classroom, we began our professional development session with Belinda’s class and eight general education teachers and their students all from the same school. There were many other students looking on from outside. We introduced a calendar and weather chart to help teach the students to identify the date and weather, giant storybooks to engage the students, and a visual system to help teach the students counting. We saw the general education teachers being really surprised at what the unit school students could do, including identifying the day and month and understanding the ones-tens-hundreds math display. The general education students and Belinda’s students were all able to participate in the activities.
After the session, we went to a local market with Belinda’s class and some of the general education students and teachers so that Belinda’s students could show us how they use picture cards (an example of Augmentative and Alternative Communication) to buy goods. The card system was designed by Cate Crowley and Miriam Baigorri five years ago for Belinda’s students. Over the years the parents and teachers of the Effiduasi unit school have enhanced the system by adding more food items, better drawings, and more money denominations needed for certain items. This system has empowered the students in Belinda’s class towards greater independence, has helped their families by enabling the students to take on such an active role as buying food and goods, and has created a relationship among the sellers, the students, the school and the families. Later that night for our class lecture, we met with Belinda who had traveled to our hotel to tell us a little bit about how she became involved in the extraordinary work that she has been doing and the difficulties she has had to overcome in order to get to where they are today. Belinda, like Albert Osei Bagyina, is such a pioneer for children with disabilities and communication challenges.