Passports to Communicating

We returned to Korle Bu Hospital in Accra first thing this morning and quickly split up into groups to assess the 15 clients who came to be seen for speech therapy. As usual we worked with Albert but we were also joined today by Clement, a Ghanaian man trained as an SLP in the UK and Karen Wylie, an Australian trained SLP who has been working in Ghana and around Africa for the past decade.  We immediately split up into 4 groups and got crackin’. Each day we feel increasingly confident in our clinical skills and collaborate efficiently and effectively as a group. We saw a number of interesting clients including a child with CP, 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 interesting and 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 all had the glorious opportunity to head over 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.

We finished up at Korle Bu and headed over to the Autism Awareness Care and Training Centre (AACTC), forgoing lunch to better maximize our time, and better direct our money towards traditional Ghanaian waist beads. 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. After Auntie Sewa shared with us her heartfelt story of overcoming the social and financial barriers of building AACTC, the one and only Lindsay Milgram 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  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 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 kids with Autism. This young man’s sister recently began a center for children with Autism in the Eastern region. Four students currently attend. 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. We are so grateful for every minute of our time here!