If you’ve ever considered taking your speech therapy skills into the mission field, let this post be your encouragement. This post is from several summers ago. When I moved my old website to this one, the post was lost. I wanted to make sure I reposted it, so you would have the chance to read about my SLP mission trip to Honduras. Hopefully you might consider SLP Missions in your future.
My Trip to Honduras
My week in Honduras was packed full of experiences. I’ve selected a few to share.
Life is full of adventures and experiences that we often do not expect. I had one such experience when I decided to join my church on a week long SLP mission trip to Honduras. This was definitely not something I planned to do, or even really wanted to do at first…but I finally stopped resisting God’s call and decided to go. The following is a recount of my experience during the week, and how I used my unique skills as a speech-language pathologist to serve in Honduras. I hope by sharing, other SLPs and educators will be inspired to find ways they can volunteer their skills around the world.
This experience had a huge impact on my life personally, and as an SLP. My hope is that you will find joy in reading it, and maybe be inspired to find a way you can take your skills abroad.
How it Began
My friend, Kristi, is a missionary in Gracias with 61 Isaiah Ministries. She is also a kindergarten teacher and counselor at Abundant Life Christian School in Gracias, Honduras. Her school is a bilingual private school that serves students from K-4 through 12th grade. They do not have regular access to a speech-language pathologist, diagnostician, or special education team. Kristi has a background in special education and has noticed some needs in some of her students. For about a year, we communicated often about the students and the need she saw for speech-language evaluations. After a year of unsuccessfully trying to connect her with a bilingual SLP who might be willing to travel to Honduras to help out, I finally decided that I would go myself.
Kristi and the school administrators were able to arrange for 8 students to meet with me. I packed a bag full of Spanish and English articulation and language screeners, activities, and other resources and got set up in Kristi’s classroom. (Special thank you to Sarah Wu from Speech is Beautiful for her generous donation of resources from her TPT store).
Visiting the School
I met with each student and their parent(s) for approximately 45 minutes. The students ranged in age from 3 years old to middle school age. Concerns ranged from articulation to severe language delay.
Through each visit, I was able to hear the concerns from the parent, interact with the student, administer screenings, and provide some tips and tools to help the students going forward. The biggest challenge I faced was knowing that almost every one of the students I met with really needed regular speech therapy services, but would be unable to receive regular services. Luckily, Kristi was eager to learn how she could help each student herself. She took detailed notes and plans to help train the classroom teachers on how to support the needs of each student.
Out of the 8 families I met with, two in particular made a lasting impact on me.
First Student Meeting
One of the boys I met was a 5 year old with Down Syndrome. His mother brought him to the school to enroll him in kindergarten. This was unique in itself because children with disabilities are not usually accepted at this school. However, I could immediately tell that this child had some great speech and language strengths. His mother shared with us that she had taken him to a town 45 minutes away for PT and OT when he was younger. He made great progress and was dismissed by age 2 or 3. Speech therapy was not available for him, but she had worked with him a lot herself at home. He had quite a few words, but could definitely still benefit from speech therapy.
I was able to provide some tips and tools to help further his speech and language development. I could tell that he was going to make great progress in school, especially with such a fabulous mother at home working with him. She talked to Kristi and I about how hard it was, but what a blessing her little boy was to her, and I reassured her that she was doing an AMAZING job caring for him, teaching him, and loving him. I truly feel that God chose her to be his mom because she has done everything she can to ensure he has what he needs to thrive in life. I don’t think I can fully explain what meeting this mother and son meant to me.
Second Student Meeting
The other family that stands out to me included two young children, ages 6 and 3. The 6 year old daughter was in Kristi’s class during the previous school year. She had some unique language and behavior challenges. This little girl was incredibly smart and had some great academic strengths, but struggled to communicate. She also used a lot of echolalia. Kristi and I both suspected Autism, but in Honduras, Autism is not a diagnosis that would help a child in any way, as children with disabilities are often kept home and not enrolled in school at all. So autism was not even discussed with the family. This little girl really made great progress in school, but still could have benefited from speech therapy to help build her language skills. I was able to provide Kristi with some information on language and communication to help her over the next year.
When the parents brought her to meet me, they also brought her 3 year old brother. He was such a sweet boy, but had almost no words at all. You can probably imagine how his behaviors were challenging due to his lack of ability to communicate. We also suspected he may have autism, but again, did not mention that to the parents. I felt so bad talking to the parents because I could see their exhaustion and frustration. They wanted answers and I felt like I was letting them down. I could not give them any magic “fix” to help their son in that moment.
With no access to speech therapy, the best I could do was give a brief training on supporting language. I also provided training to Kristi, and left some resources and information on how to work with him. I was thrilled that he was going to get the chance to enroll in school. Meeting this family was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. I could not magically make their life any easier, but I could give them hope and tools to take home.
The other students I met had needs including mild articulation and language delays and stuttering. I did what I could to train Kristi on how to support these students, and left some materials and information for her. I know these students will be in good hands, but I sure wished they could have had a regular speech-language pathologist to work with.
Seeing the school and meeting these students was a great experience. Kristi and her school truly care for these students. I feel honored that God allowed me to meet them and work with them. Kristi and the other teachers will need continued support working with these students in the future. If you are interested in finding out more about SLP mission work or how you can help Kristi and the students at her school, please feel free to contact me.
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