Our Story

 

 

CLASP International's founder, Shannon Benton, took her first visit to Zambia in 2007 and it proved to be a fateful one. It paved the way for the rest of her career as a passionate humanitarian, and eventually, the introduction of Speech-Language Pathology as a profession and tool for special needs awareness in Zambia. Her vision was founded on equal parts direct health care services, education, and international humanitarian efforts; thus were the humble beginnings of CLASP International.

 

The 2007 visit showed Shannon the dire realities of children and adults with physical and mental disabilities living in countries that lack the health care infrastructure to support them. They are sometimes casted out by society, neglected by their communities, and shoved under beds by their parents. Some consider these individuals subhuman, cursed at birth and undeserving of support or understanding. As a Speech Language Pathologist and sister to a brother with a learning disability, Shannon felt compelled to construct a resolution to these injustices. CLASP International (Connective Link Among Special need Programs) was founded in 2009, with a mission to create sustainable systems for individuals to access rehabilitation services, while duly creating awareness around special needs. CLASP International’s first initiative in this movement was to bring Speech Language Pathology to developing countries through higher education training programs.

 

In partnership with the University of Zambia, CLASP International implemented a Master of Education program in Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders. This graduate program provided coursework and practicum training for all of the students. Numerous professionals from the United States volunteered to join CLASP International teams traveling to Zambia to make hands-on learning possible at different schools and clinics throughout Lusaka. After many years of hard work, 18 ambitious students graduated on December 7, 2015 with their masters degree. These colleagues work in the Zambian school systems as well as in private settings to help children and adults with disabilities.

 

Two students from the original masters program in Zambia were accepted into the doctoral program in Applied Language & Speech Sciences at the University of Louisiana Lafayette in Louisiana, USA. These two students are working to complete their doctoral program in 5 years and to be able to return to their home country to continue the legacy of speech therapy. 

 

Thank you for supporting CLASP International and for helping give a voice to the voiceless.