Working at Rotary School for Disability
Since day two I have been working consistently with a 13-year-old boy who has Down’s Syndrome. When introduced, his principal informed me that he had some existing Hindi and English expressive vocabulary but also had some “behavioural problems.” After our initial assessment we began targeting a number of skills to assist his participation in the classroom and access to the. I started by creating a routine to help him transition in and out of sessions using social greetings, and have since incorporated a visual schedule. To target receptive and expressive language skills, I have introduced Key Word Sign for functional words to help bridge the communication barrier and scaffold comprehension. Lastly, social skills have been targeted to assist turn taking and shared play. So far I have seen gains in expressive language with both sign and speech, which is really rewarding.
Additionally, we have been doing group therapy with the children with an aim to increase their social interaction and language abilities. We sing songs and incorporate lots of gesture or do craft activities and incorporate language. It can be really hard to gauge how well these group sessions are going as the abilities of the children vary so greatly and you never have everyone’s attention at the same time. There are always a few of us trying to identify the children that need extra support and we float around the room trying to engage them. Many of the children get excited about group though and wait all morning to be able to come upstairs to join us in the main therapy area.
In the house there is always someone working, talking about working or reflecting on working so it can be really hard to relax and step away. In saying that, I am thoroughly enjoying being able to see the way in which everyone works and the discussions that occur during this time. We all have such different clients but as we share our experiences with one another we develop our skills and consolidate our knowledge.
It’s also very comforting to come back after a difficult day and know that someone else is feeling what you are feeling and be able to talk about it with a mutual appreciation of the situation. It helps to reconcile the emotions that come with the confronting environment and find means to be productive as opposed to feeling helpless, or find joy in small achievements instead of feeling overwhelmed.
Although we’re exceptionally busy I was really appreciative for our weekend away to Manali as it forced me to leave the laptop behind and switch off. After a terrifying and lengthy minibus drive along winding, guard-rail-less cliff faces (that brought at least one person to tears) we arrived in one piece at the tiny tourist town. Here we were able to shop, visit temples and take a horse ride through the Himalayas. It was the experience of a lifetime.
The last week of placement saw us go out into various areas of the community to give talks about health promotion, such as how to wash your hands and brush your teeth. We visited a residential area, a workplace, and a school and gave away toothbrushes, soap and multivitamins to people of all ages. We had a lot of fun playing with the children who liked to give hi-fives, or would mimic us and crack themselves up laughing.
Our final days at Rotary were full of mixed emotions. I had just begun to see gains with my client and felt that he was really receptive to our sessions, and the group sessions had become more cohesive with the children adjusting to the routine. We wanted our therapy to be sustainable so in order to help the teachers understand what we had been implementing during our stay we prepared presentations and activities to share with them. Over two days we shared information on the difference between speech and language, and explored Key Word Sign and sensory play. This was supplemented with activities so that the teachers were able to observe these concepts in action and I was pleased with how receptive the teachers were.
While it was hard to leave the school, I am so proud of what our team has achieved. Not just on placement, but over the course of the year. Not only have we provided therapy to some of these children and provided knowledge for their teachers, we also helped to clean and redecorate areas of the school and used our fundraising money to provide some essential items. The big tickets items included two new generators for the two boarding houses, which will see the students have consistent electricity for at least five years and winter quilts and quilt-covers to help keep them warm when the cold season sets in. On top of that we were able to buy and develop numerous therapy resources for the teachers to be able to use after our departure and a new cupboard for them to store them in, a water cooler so they always have drinking water, and cleaning supplies.
I would recommend this trip to anyone that feels that they want to be challenged in all aspects. It really helped me to learn to think on my feet and roll with constant changes. I know that I gave grown substantially as a clinician due to this placement. It challenged me in every way possible and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity. I am looking forward to seeing how these skills will translate when I start my final round of placements next year and I am feeling more prepared than ever.
Jessica Black, a Bachelor of Speech Pathology student, Speech Therapy Placement in India, September-October 2016
- Read Jessica’s pre-departure post here