August 20, 2017

SLP on a Mission...Working with Students in Honduras

This is a recount of my time spent in Honduras working with students at a local school.
Click HERE to return to the main post and read more about my trip to Honduras.

The following is a recap of my experience at the Abundant Life Christian School in Gracias, Honduras. My friend, Kristi, is a missionary in Gracias, and kindergarten teacher and counselor at ALCS. Her school is a bilingual private school that serves students from K-4 through 12th grade. They do not have regular access to a speech-language pathologist, diagnostician, or special education team. Kristi has a background in special education and has noticed some needs in some of her students. For the past year, we have been communicating about the students and the need she saw for speech-language evaluations. After a year of unsuccessfully trying to connect her with a bilingual SLP who might be willing to travel to Honduras to help out, I finally decided that I would go myself.
After informing the school that I was coming, Kristi and the school administrators were able to arrange for 8 students to meet with me. I packed a bag full of Spanish and English articulation and language screeners, activities, and other resources and got set up in Kristi's classroom. (Special thank you to Sarah Wu from Speech is Beautiful for her generous donation of resources from her TPT store)

I met with each student and their parent(s) for approximately 45 minutes. The students ranged in age from 3 years old to middle school age. Concerns ranged from articulation to severe language delay.

Through each visit, I was able to hear the concerns from the parent, interact with the student, administer screenings, and provide some tips and tools to help the students going forward. The biggest challenge I faced was knowing that almost every one of the students I met with really needed regular speech therapy services, but would be unable to receive regular services. Luckily, Kristi was eager to learn how she could help each student herself. She took detailed notes and plans to help train the classroom teachers on how to support the needs of each student.

Out of the 8 families I met with, two in particular made a lasting impact on me.

One of the boys I met was a 5 year old with Downs Syndrome. His mother brought him to the school to enroll him in kindergarten. This was unique in itself because children with disabilities are not usually accepted at this school. However, I could immediately tell that this child was more high functioning than many students with Downs Syndrome that I have worked with. His mother shared with us that she had taken him to a town 45 minutes away for PT and OT when he was younger. He made great progress and was dismissed by age 2 or 3. He never received speech therapy, but she had worked with him a lot herself at home. He had quite a few words, but could definitely still benefit from speech therapy.

I was able to give Kristi and the mother some tips and tools to help further his speech and language development. I could tell that this little boy was going to make great progress in school, especially with such a fabulous mother at home working with him. She talked to Kristi and I about how hard it was, but what a blessing her little boy was to her, and I reassured her that she was doing an AMAZING job caring for him, teaching him, and loving him. I truly feel that God chose her to be his mom because she has done everything she can to ensure he has what he needs to thrive in life. I don't think I can fully explain what meeting this mother and son meant to me. The best thing is that he will be in Kristi's kinder class this  year, so I will be able to see how he does throughout the school year.

The other family that stands out to me included two young children, ages 6 and 3. The 6 year old daughter was in Kristi's class last year and really had some unique language and behavior challenges. This little girl is incredibly smart, but struggled to communicate and used a lot of echolalia. Kristi and I both suspected Autism, but in Honduras, Autism is not a diagnosis that would help a child in any way, as children with disabilities are often kept home and not enrolled in school at all, so that was not even discussed. Having Kristi as a teacher last year, this little girl really made great progress in school, but still could have benefited from speech therapy to help build her language skills. I was able to provide Kristi with some information on language development and communication to help her over the next year.

When the parents brought her to meet me, they also brought her 3 year old brother, who was going to be enrolling in the K-4 class this year. He was such a cute boy, but had almost no words at all. You can probably imagine how his behaviors were challenging due to his lack of ability to communicate. We also suspected he may have Autism, but again, did not mention that to the parents. I felt so bad talking to the parents because I could see their exhaustion and frustration. They wanted answers and I felt like I was letting them down because I could not give them any magic "fix" to help their son in that moment. With no access to speech therapy, the best I could do was give them a brief training on how they can support his language development, provide training to Kristi, and leave some resources and information on how to work with him in the school setting. I am thrilled that he will get the chance to enroll in school. I think being with peers in a structured setting will be great for him, as it was for his sister. Meeting this family was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. I could not magically make their life any easier, but I could give them hope and tools to take home.
High school classroom at ALCS
The other students I met had needs ranging from mild articulation and language delays, to stuttering, to tongue thrust. I did what I could to train Kristi on how to support these students, and left some materials and information for her. I know these students will be in good hands, but I sure wish they could have a regular speech-language pathologist to work with.

Seeing the school and meeting these students was a great experience. Kristi and her school truly care for these students. I feel honored that God allowed me to meet them and work with them, and I will continue to pray for the students, teachers, and staff at the school.

Kristi and the other teachers will need continued support working with these students in the future. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can help Kristi and the students at her school, please email me at kristin@talkinwithtwang.com.

Click HERE to return to the main post and read more about my trip to Honduras.
SLP on a Mission...


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