Letter from Board President

A letter from CLASP's board president Amanda Beneke who traveled in December 2015 with Dr. Cindy Gill CLASP Academic Director and one of CLASP's professors Kari Comer to Zambia to watch the graduation ceremony of the first 18 speech therapists in Zambia, who graduated with a Masters in Education in Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders.


Dear Family and Friends,

I would like to take this time to give you an update on the programming I have been doing in Zambia with CLASP International. It is with great pride that I announce that 18 students finished their required coursework and officially graduated from the University of Zambia with a Master’s degree in Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders on December 7, 2015! I was thankful I could travel to Lusaka, Zambia to support our students on this monumental day. The country of Zambia now has 18 qualified individuals who are able to work with kids in educational settings who have speech and language disorders. It was great to be able to present each student with a certificate of completion for their practicum hours through CLASP International.

While we have worked so hard to get to this point, there is still work that needs to be done. The country still needs to create appropriate jobs for individuals who have a degree in Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders. Right now, many of our graduate students will continue to work as specialists in the special education system throughout Zambia. In addition, individuals are still needed who have degrees that will allow them to work in the medical field.  This would allow professionals to work in hospitals and clinics to treat individuals who have had a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or other disorder that impacts their ability to communicate. Professionals in the medical setting would also be able to work with individuals such as premature infants who have feeding disorders.

Due to financial reasons, CLASP International will not be able to continue programming in Zambia at this time. However, there are many influential people in Zambia who continue to work to develop the profession of Speech-Language Pathology. I was able to meet with many of these individuals in December when I traveled to Zambia. As a team, we were able to continue discussing appropriate directions for the future. I am so proud of the work that is continuing in Zambia!

While CLASP International will not be doing any more direct programming in Zambia, we are continuing to support our students (now colleagues!) stateside. We are offering a mentorship program so each recent graduate can connect with a certified Speech-Language Pathologist in the United States for support and advice as they begin their journey as trained professionals in their country. We are also facilitating an opportunity for a few of these students to come to the United States for a PhD program thanks to the hard work of our Academic Director, Dr. Cindy Gill-Sams. I will continue in my role as Board President to provide support wherever it is needed.

I would like to tell one wonderful story about a child we have been working with for many years now: Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a boy who is Deaf who attends the University Teaching Hospital Special School. When we met him, he drooled constantly and had no formal communication. I saw Emmanuel at church during my most recent visit. Emmanuel was not drooling at all and he was communicating with friends using fluent Zambian Sign Language. I felt so encouraged seeing the progress Emmanuel has made. It gave me HOPE for the work that will continue to be done in Zambia.

I would like to thank all of you for your love, prayers, and financial support over the years. I would never have been able to travel to Zambia five times without all of you. Because of you, I have been able to watch this program flourish…I have been able to see children find their voice…and for that I am so very grateful!


Speech Language Pathology in the Age of Apps



It seems that every day our newsfeeds and e-mail inboxes are inundated with a new crop of apps, developed to enhance our everyday lives, either through convenience, innovation, or pure entertainment. It ranges anywhere from apps that monitor diabetes to pseudo-matchmaker apps like Tinder. The horizon is boundless for these self-contained programs, their influence stemming from affordability, ease-of-use, and mobility. It is for these very reasons why they can be very powerful and engaging teaching tools for individuals with severe speech or language problems Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and speech therapy in general.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has endorsed the use of apps and mobile devices in educational settings, citing that apps have the capacity to save time and cut costs, effectively monitor progress, improve communication between teachers and parents, and be highly adaptable to patients with varying needs. And the best part: these practical solutions are packaged in colorful, engaging interfaces that kids love. Websites like AppsforAAC.net have taken on the task of cataloging and even comparing these apps side-by-side; the website currently boasts “265 apps listed in total, 55 of which are free. A simple search for “AAC app” on AppCrawlr yields 85 results, all equipped with product reviews and rankings. If numbered lists (a la Buzzfeed) are more your style, then Friendship Circle has compiled 7 Assistive Communications Apps in the iPad App Store and About.com's Top 10 AAC Apps for iPad. Still more, sites like Smart Apps for Special Needs provide daily updates on new, free (and not free) apps.

While these resources are by no means comprehensive, the message is simple. The work that SLPs undertake is difficult, and at times frustrating for all parties involved. In CLASP’s previous trips to Zambia, therapists have confronted the obstacles of what it is like to enter a situation where there are no teaching tools available; simple binders filled with pictures were created, called core boards, to facilitate lessons. This goes to show the usefulness of how even the simplest of visual aids can engage special needs children in therapy. We are fortunate enough to have access to technology, and specifically mobile applications, that can offer assistance in new, innovative ways. If you have any recommendations, feel free to let us know in the comments section below!

If you’re interested in the work we do with certified SLPs in Zambia, click here.

Speech Pathology in Africa

This video was taken during a CLASP International Craniofacial Camp where children with cleft lip/cleft palates are referred by the plastic surgeon Dr. Goran to a three-day camp to help them recover from surgery, and /or improve their speech. Watch what some of the campers have to say.




“[Of] any child born with a disability…about 8% will be hidden, 20% killed, especially with the cleft palate…”

 “The women are afraid of stigma…”

“You’ve inspired me and everyone to become a speech therapist.”

  • - Wesley Urenda, born with a cleft palate.


A young girl in your third grade class that couldn’t pronounce the letter ‘r’ and thus said ‘tomorrow’ in the most endearing way. The nervous boy in high school whose stutter got worse when called upon in class; this is how most Americans become aware of Speech Language Pathology and Therapy, and it is no coincidence. In the U.S. we have the privilege of access to sophisticated healthcare system and a strong Speech Language Pathology practice, so we’re not often confronted with the dire realities of what an undiagnosed and untreated speech abnormality could mean for an infant. Some regions of the world are not so lucky. In some regions of the world, Speech Language Pathology doesn’t even exist.

It is in these developing countries where a cleft palate, a problem solved by a simple operation at birth in the U.S., becomes deadly due to the malnutrition that comes from ineffective feeding practices for infants. This is just one example. Paired with the social stigmas and cultural fear that surrounds unknown and “unexplained” physical/mental abnormalities, children like Wesley are forced to face the fate of neglect, malnutrition and death.

This is where CLASP International found our part in the equation. We want to give voice to these voiceless children. Wesley was one of the children given a chance to survive, to have surgery and over come his disability. With Speech therapy from CLASP International Wesley is able to communicate and participate in life. Nothing justifies our efforts more than seeing children like Wesley empowered “to become a speech therapist” in his home country of Zambia.

We saw an opportunity to create a difference in Africa and we took it. Now we need your help to make success stories like Wesley’s a reality for all children in need of a voice in Africa. Please join us on September 18, 6AM – Midnight for A HELPING HAND CLASP GIVING DAY, where many of your donations will be matched by some of our generous supporters.

As Wesley reminds us, “A big journey begins with one step.” Take your first step in this journey with CLASP.

Click here to give!


Do What I Do

By: The May Team

Location: Special School and First Redeemer Methodist Church, Community Outreach; Lusaka, Zambia

Date: 5/22/2014

Today we saw dance, song, and smiles come together to help children and parents communicate. We were able to introduce music and circle time with the children and their mothers at the community center.  It was amazing to see them interacting in a new way surrounded by others in similar circumstances.  Looking around the circle the thing that shined the brightest was their smiles.  Despite their handicaps, each child was dancing in their own form.  Music is truly a universal language.

One of our favorite songs that we have learned here is titled, “Do What I Do”.  It starts with the leader in the center making her own moves while everyone cheers and imitates.  She then chooses a child or parent for the next turn, who then comes up with her own move.  This was amazing because the families were having a great time while learning to work on speech and language skills with their child.  Many mothers in Zambia have not thought of music as an educational tool.   Today they were learning how to use music with their children to encourage language growth through repetition, imitation, movement, interaction and early turn-taking skills.

At the end of the afternoon, we were able to pass out donated items to all of the children at the community center before they left. Each child was able to get a toy, book, or pair of sunglasses. Many of the families don’t have any toys or books at home, making it difficult to find ways to interact and teach language skills to their children. The families were so appreciative of something so small.  We were able to make recommendations for them to use these items at home to better elicit language production. We also noted, many of the children use adult feeding utensils, which are too large, making it difficult for them to develop adequate feeding skills while maintaining safety. We were able to educate mothers on use of safer feeding strategies and provide them with donated children’s utensils something they do not have easy access to.

Today we not only danced and sang with our feet and our mouths, but with our hearts. We are overjoyed about the beginning of this partnership with the community center. We can’t wait to see how it continues to grow and impact those in the community!

Donate here to help this work continue!

Calm after the Storm

By: Kari Comer, Speech-Language Pathologist

Location: Special School and Special Hope Network; Lusaka, Zambia

Date: 5/21/2014

Today we reached a turning point. We are halfway through the week and the first few days were focused on getting on the ground and seeing what needed to be done. From organizing patient charts, to addressing documentation with students, to initiating therapy, and sorting materials, we felt that the work we were here to do would just be a drop in the bucket.

Our approach today was to have the students focus on fewer clients for longer periods of time and it was great to see the wheels turning. Students expressed enthusiasm over the progress seen in just a few days with the clients, parents were intrigued by our work and receptive to suggestions, and teachers asked what they can do in the classroom to increase communication.

This week we met a long time friend of CLASP whose name is Gift. He has been seen by multiple teams over the last few years. He was born with a birth defect and a bifid uvula. His articulators had never been used to produce intelligible speech. His primary mode of communication has been through smiles and hugs. The posterior portion of his mouth was repaired on February 10 by Dr. Goran Jovic at the University Teaching Hospital. This has been the first chance that a CLASP team has been able to work with him post surgery. His mother took off work, which is very rare in this culture, to speak with the therapist and ask the CLASP team to continue working with him to help him. Therapy focused on teaching Gift to move his articulators and strengthen his oral structure. After just 3 days, he is able to elevate and lateralize his tongue. He is making great progress and is able to tell a difference in himself. The graduate students are noticing the progress as well and excited to learn how they really can make a difference. We have been given a gift to be able to work with him. He is just one example of clients we work with that give us so much more than we can ever give back.

The encouragement experienced today will carry us through the rest of the week as the effects of travel, sleep deprivation, and cultural barriers take their toll. We are making a difference!

This week is CLASP International's final week for their $30,0000 in 30 Days Campaign. Please consider donating to the cause in order to help this work continue to grow and reach more children and adults with disabilities in Zambia. Donate here


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