Establishing Crucial Relationships and Learning More About Child Development in Ghana by Macy

A lot of our time in Ghana was dedicated to establishing critical relationships for future trips to Ghana.  We had the opportunity to visit a couple schools to form connections including the Volta School for the Deaf and the Autism school in Accra.  The Volta school for the Deaf was impressive because it was like a mini campus.  The children stay there throughout the year for 3 months at a time, and then go home to their families for a couple weeks between sessions.  At this school, they have a vocational area where the students make really cool crafts—we were able to see and buy these crafts at their store in the market called “Our Talking Hands”.  During our visit at the school, the children were out of session so it was difficult to see how we could be most helpful to them.  We talked about possibly focusing on ergonomics in the vocational area or tackling communication barriers between children and their families.  We learned that most children struggle when they go home because their parents do not know sign language and have no way of communicating with them.  It made me wonder why they have to be sent home if both the child and parent are not happy with the situation.  However, since this is a requirement of the school, I think that we could help with this communication barrier.

The Autism school was overwhelming for me.  As a former ABA therapist, I couldn’t help but notice how much these teachers could benefit from ABA training.  I think a major part of our role at this school could be through teacher education.  There was sensory overload from the time we walked in including a loud TV, drumming, and singing very loudly.  The teachers could benefit from an understanding of sensory integration because it was clear that some children had sensory processing difficulties.

We were lucky to have Yvonne (the daughter of mama from the orphanage) help us get in touch with the autism school.  She is a wealth of knowledge and I enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to her.  She and Bless, one of the older guys from the orphanage, have a lot of connections in Ghana, making it important for us to keep good relationships with them for future visits.

I enjoyed learning more about child development in Ghana by administering Denver II screenings and interviewing mothers in the local villages.  Bless was helpful in finding mothers to interview, and also helped with interpreting.  We conducted these interviews to get a better idea of typical child development in Ghana in hopes of eventually creating a screening tool for Ghanaian children.  A few of my observations included: people did not seem to think a child’s age was very important, children do not have access to toys or feeding utensils, and parents will seek medical attention mainly for children who are overheated.  I also thought that the animal identification list should be changed to include more common animals in Ghana (such as goats).

We were only able to administer Denver II screenings on a couple children from the orphanage.  I helped administer the screening on two young girls, but it was difficult to get a true idea of their skills because of the language barrier (they speak Ewe to them).  They were also feeling sick and were not comfortable with us, which might of also skewed our results.  We noticed that they did not move around much and had a flat affect, but this could have been due to the heat and/or their sickness.  Hopefully next year we can continue this research and get more Denver screenings in the Volta region.

Forming relationships is essential when traveling to a foreign country to provide services.  We were lucky to have pre-established relationships to assist us during our trip this time, and hopefully the relationships we formed this year will continue throughout the following years.  This trip was completely life changing and I am so blessed I had this opportunity. Not only did I learn about a completely different culture then my own, but I also realized how much we take for granted on a daily basis.  I feel very fortunate for all that we have here in the US and hope to someday have another opportunity to travel abroad again (maybe to go pick up Prosper :)).

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One of my favorite pictures from the trip 🙂

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