So currently there are 6 speech and language therapists in the whole of Ghana. I am number 6. People with disabilities are still kept hidden by their families resulting in very little of them accessing the small amount of support available.
Currently, therapists are studying related degrees in Ghana and then going to the UK to complete a masters in the subject. Today I met Nana. She is very proactive in improving rights and services for children who have disabilities. She returned to Ghana many years ago and set up the Awaawaa2. This is a non-profit centre providing specialist services for children with LD. Nana’s right wing woman is Mary, the centre coordinator. Mary has a daughter with autism and has first hand experience of the difficulties children with a learning disability face. It’s still commonly not recognised as a disability because often it is without a physical impairment. Many still think autism is caused by spirits and curses, and seek cures from witch doctors.
The staff at Awaawaa2 are known as facilitators. They work with families and teaching staff at the children’s mainstream schools to help integrate them into their education setting. This can be successful; although, Mary and Nana explained the struggles that all involved face. Schools in Ghana are still able to refuse entry of children with disabilities. Some children are accepted; however, parents are asked to pay higher fees so the school can accommodate their children.
The children I met today were lovely. They presented as warm and friendly; although without any solid form of AAC they were unable to communicate effectively and many acted out as a form of expressing themselves.
During my time at the Awaawaa2 I plan to produce training packages for the facilitators and to be used with other teaching staff. I’m going to be focusing on the use of Makaton signs and picture exchange systems to begin with. These children would also benefit from parents and caregivers receiving support in using parent-child interaction techniques. I also plan to start making the Awaawaa2 more visual.
My next task would then be to get to know the children better and produce communication passports for them to use in their mainstream setting.
It seems like a mammoth task so if anyone is interested in taking over from me I leave in January.