We returned to Korle Bu Hospital today and had a busy morning, doing assessments for about 15 clients. As usual, we worked with Albert but we were also joined today by Clement, a Ghanaian man trained as a speech language pathologist in the UK, and Karen Wylie, an Australian trained SLP who has been working in Ghana and around Africa for the past 10 years. Each day we gain confidence in our skills and collaborate efficiently and effectively as a group, and with other professionals. We have been working a lot on lanuage development with young children, but today we met some clients needing other types of services, including a child with cerebral palsy, a child with autism, a child who had lost his hearing due to meningitis, and an adult who had suffered a stroke. Each case was unique and while we have grown so much as clinicians in the last week, we also realize more and more how much there still is to learn.
We also had the exciting opportunity to go to the Audiology department to observe new born hearing screenings – the first of which began only months ago. Thanks to generous help from the Church of Latter Day Saints (may god be with you til we meet again), the Audiology department at Korle Bu Hospital has been able to progress tremendously.
After our morning at Korle Bu, we had plans to spend the afternoon at the Autism Awareness Care and Training Centre (AACTC). AACTC was established 15 years ago by Auntie Sewa who wanted to ensure that her son with autism would receive the education and resources that are available for typically developing children. Auntie Sewa, the school staff and the students welcomed us and Auntie Sewa shared with us her heartfelt story of overcoming the social and financial barriers of building AACTC. One of our clinical supervisors, Lindsay Milgram, then took center stage to teach all of the AACTC staff and many parents of children with Autism about Communication Passports.
Lindsay explained the importance of creating and carrying these passports to facilitate other people’s understanding of different ways children with special needs communicate. The purpose of a Communication Passport is to help a child who is unable to speak, express basic and important information about themself, as well as to increase autism awareness. While students from TC paired up to guide parents and AACTC staff in making Communication Passports for some designated students, moving stories were exchanged. One mother of a child with autism shared her hardships of living in a community that regards disabilities as a curse and where she was often called a witch. Another man who traveled two hours to attend our professional development workshop shared his efforts of increasing awareness for children with autism. This young man’s sister recently began a center for children with autism in the Eastern region that currently contains four students. This man explained the sadness and ignorance that exists surrounding autism and described a family with a 3 year old child with autism that had never been allowed to leave the home.
Upon leaving AACTC we were thanked whole heartedly by the staff and parents who had participated in creating Communication Passports for their children. One woman was so excited that she asked us for email addresses so she could send us pictures of her daughter using her colorful new Communication Passport. Every day in Ghana, we are touched by the struggles people with disabilities and their families face, yet we are consistently amazed by their strength and ability to overcome these hardships.