Thursday, January 13, 2011

Last Day in Kumasi

The traffic seemed to be easing up this morning as if Kumasi had finally embraced us, streamlining travel to do our work. By the afternoon however, it was back to bottleneck traffic, the only benefit being the easy purchase of plantain chips, coconuts, and chocolate by the wayside.

This morning, half of us went to Komfo Anokye Hospital, and the other half to Effiduase School. When we arrived to the school around 9:15, many of the students were still proudly wearing the name tags that were made the day before. We modeled an attendance activity for Belinda using the laminated name tags and the “home” and “school” display boards with pockets that we had created the previous night using medium weight sheet protectors, clear packing tape (to join the sheet protectors and to laminate the front and back), staples (to create the individual pockets), and ribbon (to hang them up in the classroom).

Each of the individual name tags had a child’s name paired with a symbol (e.i. pineapple, bicycle, star). The idea being that as the child sees her name tag, she will first begin to identify her name by recognizing the symbol. After being able to consistently recognize her name via the symbol, the teacher will cover the symbol and place emphasis on the first letter of the child’s name. The child will, in this way, learn to recognize the letters in her name, and generalize the graphic awareness to the names of her peers and to other words.

We continued the work of yesterday’s group and went outside into the common play yard to engage in an activity with some of the general education classrooms. As we walked to the yard, we saw children peeking out of the classroom doors and windows. It didn’t take long for them to come out and join us. We formed a large circle and sang the name song in which everyone takes turns jumping into the middle of the circle to dance when their day is called. In Ghana, you are given a name according to which day of the week you were born. For example, the name "Kofi" is given to male child who is born on a Friday.

After playing a few circle games, we took the children from Belinda's classroom to the market to provide a functional context in which to use AAC. The cards depicted items like cassava, tomato, onion, plantain, fish, palm nuts, and cabbage. We were overjoyed to learn that the children were still using the cards from last year, in fact, one of Belinda’s assistant teachers had created more cards that far surpassed ours in artistic form. Every child had a chance to make a purchase. Some of the vendors recognized a few of the children. This was wonderful to see, as it meant that they go to the market with their parents and are not confined to the house.

One of the vendors even mentioned to Belinda that she wanted to enroll her niece into the Effiduase School. This gesture was extraordinary as it demonstrated the shift in mindset that Belinda created in her community as a result of her inexhaustible dedication and advocacy to children with disabilities. Belinda recounted that as little as a few years ago, people would stare at her and whisper when she walked by. Now they ask her to read prayers aloud during the church service!

In Ghana, children are expected the go to the market to buy food for the family. This is a challenge for many children with disabilities who are often viewed as unhelpful when it comes to making purchases at the market and other household tasks. It felt revolutionary walking to the market with the children knowing that they were accomplishing a task meaningful to their families and to the community. It was an incredible last day at the school.

In the afternoon, we went to the Cleft Palate/Craniofacial Clinic at Komfo Anokye Hospital and joined our other half to observe patients in consultation with Dr. Alexander Acheampong, a surgeon/lawyer/dentist who studied with Dr. Peter Donkor, the head of the department (and esteemed author of one of the journal articles included in our coursepack). Most of his patients were infants but he also saw a 34-year old man who wanted to get his cleft repaired in preparation for marriage, and an 18-year old girl who was brought by her classroom teacher. He discussed each of the 10 cases with us and answered our questions.

Dr. Acheampong explained that the lip repair is the most crucial surgery for an infant because it helps the mothers to bond more closely with their child. When the child's face appears more normal, a mother is likely to provide better care. One of the patients was a 1-year old child who had already undergone cleft lip repair and was awaiting a palate repair surgery. The mother reported that the child had finally been accepted into the family and had been named "Blessing Santua."

At times, even after a lip repair, a child may not be accepted into a family. Dr. Acheampong mentioned that 6 months ago, he had adopted an infant with a cleft lip and palate who had been rejected by his family. He named the child "Peter" after Peter Donkor, his mentor. We were touched by the doctor's commitment to his patients and congratulated him on his recent fellowship award to work at the University of Michigan.

In keeping with our typical schedule, we sat down for lunch around 4:00. Upon boarding the bus, George Frank, one of our traveling interpreters, put in a “hiplife” (a contemporary Ghanaian music genre) cassette and we traveled back to the hotel. Now we are enjoying sparkling drinks and bubbly conversation…

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