On May 11, 2013, four graduate students from Minnesota State University Mankato Speech/Language Pathology Department, and myself traveled to San Pedro, Belize. We spent two weeks providing screenings and assessments to children in the local schools. Words can’t adequately express what an amazing experience this was. The principals and teachers on the island were so welcoming to us and made it difficult for us to leave!
The four SLP students and I spent 8 mornings at ABC Pre-School doing speech/language screenings for every child in the school. Mr. Will was very helpful and set us up in the building next door to the preschool which happened to house a decompression chamber. We streamlined a process where we brought four children in and rotated them through speech/language and hearing screening and otoscopy. The teachers each had a checklist and marked off the children that had been through the screenings. We screened over 100 children at ABC Pre-School.
We tested a little boy at another school, following a referral from the MSU Psychology group working in San Pedro, and it turned out to be an excellent referral. The child had very peculiar vocal characteristics. He appeared to have oral apraxia but not speech apraxia and he spoke in a very high register most of the time. And it sounded “gravelly” at times. It made him almost unintelligible. We completed articulation and language tests and he scored very low on both. Interestingly, he tested above average in intelligence which clearly points to a language-based learning disability that we will continue to work with.
I can’t begin to express how valuable this trip was. We are in the process of writing up very detailed reports with both teacher and parent recommendations. We are providing resources as appropriate and have many children we would like to re-test on future trips.
Our plans are to return to San Pedro twice per year for two weeks at a time. We will take referrals from teachers and hope to have word out to the locals for the dates we will be there. In addition, I would like to implement some intensive therapy for one of the weeks during each trip for those children with articulation difficulties. There is great potential for research as well. I can visualize studies on the effectiveness of intensive therapy with assessment before and after the intervention.
The Reef View Apartments are exceptional accommodations. The staff was kind and courteous and phenomenal at making sure the students comfortable and safe. We had the opportunity to utilize the Education Center Classrooms to conduct testing and found them very handy and spacious.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to the Reef View staff, San Pedro teachers, administrators and students, and the people of San Pedro Town for allowing us this unique experience to provide service and enjoy the culture of beautiful Ambergris Caye!
Jessica M. Jones, M.S., CCC-SLP
Director of Clinical & Internship Experiences
Minnesota State University-Mankato