Today we went to Cheshire Homes in Kabulonga for the day. This is a facility for children with physical disabilities, which provides education as well as physiotherapy to these children who ranged in age from 6-18. We arrived there about 9am and Sr. Petronella, who I have been communicating with, was not there, but we met the lead physiotherapist Ian (who I remembered from last year) as well as Sr. Cecilia who welcomed us to Cheshire Homes.
We were asked to set up in two rooms: one large room, which is the kids’ playroom and another smaller physiotherapy room. We set up hearing screenings in the physio room and speech-language screenings in the larger playroom. Just as we were set up, a large group of kids arrived in the playroom! We had thought they would arrive in smaller groups, but pretty much all 30 kids in the facility arrived all together! We adapted quickly and started a system where the kids would be in the playroom with 6 students. Four students were playing and interacting with the kids while Christi would take 2 students and a child aside for the speech-language screenings in the same room while I would get them 2 by 2 for the hearing screenings next door with the other 6 students. Fortunately I had a list of the children’s names and that was very helpful!
We had set up to do pure tone screening, but with 30 boisterous kids in the next room it was far too noisy, so we decided to do OAE screenings – our students once again showed their adaptability to the situation at hand and were ready to go!
We screened 30 children in the morning and were surprised to be done – the team is certainly being efficient! It helped that all the kids were at hand and we did not have to wheel them from the other building, as we had to do last year! It was great for me to see several children that I had seen last year – I remember many of them so clearly! One of the last children we screened was one we had seen last year and talked about quite a bit: she is in a wheelchair but in all other regards she is a typical teenager! Some o the students spent time chatting with her about their favorite TV shows, music, boys/boyfriends and played Uno with her – and it was great to see this interaction!
The speech-language screenings also had to be adapted, and as always students adapted quickly. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire screening tool turned out not to be appropriate for the population, and so Christi ended up having consultations with the teacher about individual kids that she brought up concerns and questions about. Flexibility and adaptability – the golden rule of being a clinician, especially with the pediatric population.
Interacting with the kids:
NOTE: I learned how to make a snail from playdoh from Breanne – a great new skill in my repertoire to use when making ear impressions on a child! 🙂
We took a break for lunch, which we ate as a picnic on the grounds. Sr. Cecilia was so kind and set out juice and cookies for us all! Since we were done with the screenings, we made a quick plan for the afternoon: to break into groups and try to do some circle time and singing, some basic sign language and some AAC since there are several children who are non-verbal or have limited use of spoken language – MORE adapting! We also met Sr. Petronella who walked over to us as we were eating: she is an OR nurse!! That’s the reason she was out in the morning because she works at a hospital! She was jolly, warm and welcoming as almost all Zambians are!
We started the afternoon with story time for all the kids, then singing – it was a great experience for all of us to do this with the variety of children having a wide range of age and ability. Christi and a few students talked with the staff about visual communication aids while the rest of us followed Alyssa and Julia’s lead in teaching and practicing some signs with the children.
Sign for “sad” and “sick” coming up!
Before we knew it, it was time for us to wrap up. The kids sang their “Thank you” song for us which surprised me last year, and even though I knew it this year it was still so touching to hear them all sing it together for us! We took our usual group photo and gave our gifts to the staff. Thanks to fundraising by Purdue’s National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA) and the Purdue Audiology Student Organization (PASO) – we were able to make a donation of some small items to Cheshire Homes. We hope to be able to work with these wonderful kids again. It is so amazing to see them being so fiercely independent despite their mobility problems – many of them scoot around the ground so fast and the boys were roughhousing just like typical little boys, while also helping each other when needed.
We went back to the lodge for a brief break and then we were off to Manda Hill Mall for our dinner with the UNZA students. I was also excited that I was going to meet Emmie – our friend from last year who drove us around in our bus for the whole two weeks! We were there a little early, but a couple of the UNZA students arrived within a few minutes. Christi and I were the mother hens: we ordered 14 large pizzas, got the 24 students the drinks they wanted and then left them to get to know each other a bit better.
Emmie was late, and only arrived when it was almost 7pm – but he looked great and seems to be doing well! He has stared his own small business (which is why he was not our driver this year – I sure missed him!!). His oldest daughter Maureen is a senior in high school and is Head Girl at her school – he was so proud of her and she hopes to do well enough on her exams to get into UNZA and wants to be an economist! After a quick dinner at Curry in a Hurry – yes a small Indian restaurant at the mall – I introduced Emmie to the students and he left. In the mean time, the UNZA students had given all our students the lovely gift of a chitenge – the traditional garment worn by women in Zambia. We all got matching chitenges this year! And some students even got extra personal gifts form their buddies! The UNZA students were so thoughtful and we hope that two student groups had a great experience interacting with each other! And YES – Jessica and Katie’s buddies did come to the dinner even though they had missed the meeting we had last week!
Back to the lodge and we had our usual pow-wow. Students reflected on:
- How incredibly independent the children were despite their physical disabilities
- How we sang “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” with all of them – despite the fact that some of them don’t have their lower limbs
o Because they really seemed so “able” despite their disabilities
- How happy the kids were
- How it was sad to see some of the kids who had so much difficulty communicating
- How some of them had so much potential and used whatever means they had to communicate
- How the kids’ teacher has no aide or other help in the classroom and has to figure out ways to work with a wide range of children in one class
- How it is important not to make any assumptions regarding any child’s abilities because some of them had significant communication difficulties, but their comprehension and cognitive abilities were intact and they knew exactly what was going on
- How it was frustrating for these children who were struggling to get the words out
- How they were amazed at how mobile the kids were in their own ways
They also talked about the UNZA dinner:
- Rachel learned about a traditional Lozi (tribe) ceremony from her buddy Nawa
- Kelly learned from her buddy Mukekani that most girls keep a chitenge handy even if they are wearing other clothes in case they need to wear one
- Andrea’s buddy Nkwhani talked about how the World Cup football is followed a lot in Zambia
- Katie learned from her buddy about the Zambian style handshake
- Jessica commented on how quickly her buddy Rabecca got so friendly with her
All in all today was a great day and we can’t believe we only have 2 more work days left in Zambia!! To end the day, as we were finishing the pow-wow a spider was noticed on the ceiling of Christi’s room. A very quick Jessica was up on the couch and successfully got rid of the critter so Christi can have a safe night’s sleep!! 🙂