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