Field Updates - HapFam Begins Its 3rd Year!
Hello Niapele Community!
Before I get to the update, let me introduce myself. I am Kimberly, a doctoral candidate from the University of Maryland, College Park. I will be volunteering with HapFam for the Fall semester and sending out periodic updates about the growth and challenges we see every day. I have a M.A. in Special Education and I am currently working on my Ph.D in International Education Policy, my focus being in special education and development. It is a joy to finally be in Liberia and working with HapFam!
Two weeks ago, school began for students in Liberia and HapFam was no exception. Del, Pandora and the staff welcomed ten wonderful students into the program this year with a range of disabilities. There are many great things that will be happening in the coming months.
Joshua and Abu from the National Association for the Deaf have begun to conduct American Sign Language (ASL) courses for both the students and staff. In the coming weeks, they will be facilitating a training for the parents. Most of the students do not have hearing impairments, but they have speech and language issues. There are no (to my knowledge) speech and language pathologists in Liberia to help them re-work the muscles in their mouth to form the sounds to create words. This has been a problem and source of stigma for many of the students because they cannot communicate in a way most of the surrounding community finds acceptable. There is a hope that if the students and parents are able to communicate in a more efficient way, such as ASL, there will be less confusion and more acceptance of the child’s disability.
In addition to Joshua and Abu, the Ministry of Education has promised HapFam a government-supported teacher. The formal application went in last week, so hopefully the teacher will arrive soon!
Each blog, I will highlight one student. This week, I would like to introduce, Diamond:
Diamond is a happy, quiet, shy girl with a developmental delay. This means that although Diamond is a 12 or 13, she is cognitively about 5 or 6. She loves to play kickball and is working hard to learn her alphabet. One difficulty many students with developmental delays face is retention. It takes a lot more patience and creativity by the teacher to really help the student retain information. At the moment, Pandora is working hard to help her achieve her goal of memorizing the alphabet. Last week, Diamond was able to recite the alphabet by herself. Her next goal will be to write and identify the letters.
Please stay tuned for news from HapFam!