June 8, 2003 - The Asha Leader: David J. Hajjar is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV)/SLP working for the Ministry of Education. I知 here with my wife, Molly, a recreational therapist working as a PCV in the area of geriatrics for the Ministry of Social Services.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Grenada: Peace Corps Grenada : The Peace Corps in Grenada: June 8, 2003 - The Asha Leader: David J. Hajjar is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV)/SLP working for the Ministry of Education. I知 here with my wife, Molly, a recreational therapist working as a PCV in the area of geriatrics for the Ministry of Social Services.

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, June 07, 2003 - 11:54 am: Edit Post

David J. Hajjar is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV)/SLP working for the Ministry of Education. I知 here with my wife, Molly, a recreational therapist working as a PCV in the area of geriatrics for the Ministry of Social Services.



David J. Hajjar is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV)/SLP working for the Ministry of Education. I知 here with my wife, Molly, a recreational therapist working as a PCV in the area of geriatrics for the Ministry of Social Services.

The Only SLP in Grenada

by David J. Hajjar

The tri-island nation of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique located in the West Indies謡ith abundant sunshine and daily temperatures well above 85 degrees擁s a long way from Crotched Mountain in Greenfield, NH. The latter is where I served as a school-based speech-language pathologist. St. Georges, Grenada, is where I知 currently a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV)/SLP working for the Ministry of Education. I知 here with my wife, Molly, a recreational therapist working as a PCV in the area of geriatrics for the Ministry of Social Services.

Most of us do not think of PCVs as working in the eastern Caribbean; however, there is a great need for assistance that may not be obvious from the white sand beaches, cruise ship terminals, or hiking trails through the rainforest.


A Bit of Background

The Peace Corps first entered Grenada in 1966, but ceased operations between 1979 1985 upon request of the Grenadian government. During that time, Grenada experienced a socialist-led revolutionary period that involved political unrest, demonstrations, and the threat of communism. After the intervention by U.S. and Caribbean troops in October 1983, the government and constitution was restored, and the Peace Corps eventually reopened operations in 1985. There are now 16 volunteers working around the island.

Aside from myself, there are currently no SLPs in Grenada or any of the five island nations serviced by PCVs in the eastern Caribbean. With the exception of physical therapy in hospital settings, support services such as speech or occupational therapy do not exist in the various educational or medical environments.

The major focus of Peace Corps assistance in the eastern Caribbean is directed toward addressing the education, employment, health, and self-esteem needs of the youth at-risk population. Like many nations in the eastern Caribbean, the majority of Grenada痴 population is under the age of 2562% in the case of Grenada.

A weak economy幼ombined with increased competition from the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement溶egatively affects the employment situation in Grenada. Most preferential trade arrangements are being phased out for crops such as bananas, sugar, and rum. In addition, competitive pressures have grown from larger countries such as Brazil and Australia. Without protection and trade privileges, small Caribbean countries like Grenada are losing agricultural industries. Grenada is fortunate to have developed a niche in the nutmeg industry and is reported to be the second largest exporter behind Indonesia.

This decline in the agricultural sector negatively affects the current national unemployment rate of 29%, which increases dramatically to 62.3% for Grenada痴 youth ranging in age from 1525.

Many young people in the at-risk population are performing well below grade level in core academic areas and do not possess the basic skills to support future reading and writing success. Students also lack opportunity within the formal education system, with only about one-third of students advancing from primary level because of a shortage of available places in the secondary schools. This leaves nearly two-thirds of the youth with only a primary school education.

At present, special education has been identified by the Peace Corps as one of the five primary technical areas of need in the eastern Caribbean. Even though there are two special education schools and a school for the deaf limitations remain in the areas of access, assessment, therapy services in all disciplines, and teacher training. In the mainstream educational sector, there is also limited awareness and understanding about students who require specialized services because of any type of learning delay or disorder.

Competency tests, which determine if students have acquired skills prescribed in the curriculum, reveal that a large percentage of students are performing below grade level in language arts and math. These delays can be attributed to a variety of factors, one of which may be the presence of a learning disability. Certainly this is not the case with all students; however, with such a large population struggling with the acquisition of written language and math skills, students should be entitled to appropriate assessment, strategies for remediation, and access to appropriate modifications and accommodations.

The area of assessment has been challenging because of many factors. Without access to formal speech and language assessment measures appropriate for students in the eastern Caribbean, I rely on more informal techniques bearing in mind the primary cultural and linguistic differences in speech production, semantics, morphology, and pragmatics.

The West Indian dialect of English has features resulting from a combination of various historical influences in the Caribbean and contact between African and European languages. For example, in neighboring countries such as Dominica and St. Lucia, French Creole has remained strong and is considered the native language of the population. In Grenada, where French Creole was once the native language, it has been eradicated and is spoken only occasionally among the elderly population. According to residents in Grenadian nursing homes, they often used French Creole as a "secret language" in order to communicate with each other and prevent their children from understanding.


The Grenada School for Special Education

Upon my arrival in Grenada in August 2001, I was assigned as a special education volunteer to the Grenada School for Special Education. The school has a population of approximately 60 students and seven teachers. Even though the facility has existed since 1976, there are many basic needs that still remain in the areas of physical classroom space, teaching/therapy materials and resources, and teacher training, specifically in the areas of behavioral modification, as sessment, and documentation of progress. Most of the teachers have never received special education training, and very few of the students have been evaluated and diagnosed appropriately. The population of students with special education needs demonstrates cognitive, developmental, physical, speech and language, and learning disabilities. The students range in age from 522 and, after they leave school, there are limited options for future employment or independent living environments.

Some of my greatest challenges as a PCV have been learning how to prioritize need, transfer information in an effective manner, and remain focused on how to improve special education services overall in the country of Grenada. Even though there is an obvious need for speech and language services at the school, I had to remain focused on the Peace Corps goal for sustainable development. It was challenging to decide which service delivery model would most effectively assist the teachers and students. Should I focus on providing individual assessment and treatment services to the student population, or would it be better to transfer specific skills and information to the teachers and principal? Who would be able to carry out treatment programs upon my completion of service?

At the special education school, I decided to work primarily with the teachers, transferring information related to specific speech and language skills, as well as basic teaching principles, classroom scheduling, documentation, and time management. For example, none of the students had individualized education programs (IEPs). As a result, I spent time educating teachers about the importance of considering individual strengths and areas of need for their students. After developing a basic IEP and conducting goal-writing workshops, teachers had some of the initial tools to begin documenting students progress. Every month, I rotated classrooms and spent time observing, conducting evaluations, and encouraging teachers to plan lessons and activities based on students individual areas of need. Each of the teachers became my Grenadian counterpart, and I focused on providing them with the most concise and relevant information related to the population of students they were teaching.

Most teachers had never received any formal teacher training in the area of special education, and some were hesitant to attempt new techniques and methods in their classrooms. In a few instances, it was easy to facilitate change as teachers responded quickly to my attempts at modeling various techniques and communicative interactions with students. Most teachers, however, required more time, and I adopted a more passive approach that called for patience and a "standby" attitude.

Eventually, the more hesitant teachers began to express an interest in my ideas by asserting concerns about implementation and relevance to their specific classroom situations. Even though we may not have always agreed on specific methodology and ideas for remediation, it was more important to me to be opening the lines of communication for collaboration and discussion of different methods that are affected by cultural differences, availability of resources, and individual experiences.

In some of the classrooms, students were still not given opportunities to take advantage of their strengths as individuals and participate in activities appropriate to their developmental and cognitive levels. For these classrooms, I was able to acquire funds for a grant to support the development of an agricultural training and garden project at the school. Because Grenada has an agriculturally based economy and farming is a crucial segment of the culture, it is important for students to be involved in the process of developing and maintaining a garden. One goal of the project is to expose students to the skills involved in harvesting and using crops from a garden. Students also will benefit in several other areas, such as fine and gross-motor skills, self-esteem, and pragmatic skills. Classrooms with a vocational focus will now have the opportunity to participate in a meaningful, income-generating project that will be sustainable beyond my years of service.

At this point, I had been in Grenada for eight months and I was receiving requests for reading evaluations for students in the mainstream primary schools. As a result, I started conducting weekly evaluations determining the presence of significant deficits in the area of written language and overall learning development. Upon sharing assessment results with principals, teachers, and parents, I discovered that students were not receiving appropriate support services in the mainstream schools.

Educators did not understand how to implement remediation programs or provide accommodations for students performing below grade level. I conducted workshops for teachers describing the basic scope and sequence of traditional phonics programs, as well as strategies to support literacy activities in the school and home environment. Encountering so many students reading significantly below grade level and not receiving appropriate support services forced me to re-examine my role as a volunteer and assess the greater need to support literacy and reading development in the mainstream schools.

With the assistance of other PCVs and administrative staff, we compiled a comprehensive report detailing the current special education situation in Grenada. We put forth goals to heighten awareness among identified stakeholders and to communicate a proposed action plan to improve services for students with special education needs. After presenting our findings to government officials, we lobbied for a "special education" position within the Ministry of Education. They recognized the importance of the issue, and I was transferred into the Curriculum Unit to support this initiative. As I work toward developing a foundation to support policy-making in this area, I realize this task will reach well beyond the tenure of my service. It is encouraging to know that future PCVs will be continuing such efforts upon the completion of my service this August.


Future Challenges

At this point, I am responsible for developing a "Task Force on Special Education" that will work out of the Ministry. My primary responsibilities will be to recognize and research past efforts in this area and gather the relevant stakeholders who will oversee the implementation of future assessment and remediation programs. The first goal of the task force will be to develop a plan for the assessment of students identified as "slow learners" in the mainstream primary schools. As we select pilot schools to participate in this project, we will determine how many students require support services, which areas of need are most pertinent, and how to begin the process of planning effective remediation services. We will need to utilize teachers as partners in this process by educating them about basic assessment techniques and the importance of focusing on individual areas of need.

Because specialists are not available and resources are extremely limited, the success of any intervention plan to assist students performing below grade level will rely on support from teachers, principals, and Ministry officials. Teachers will require additional training, and all parties will need to adapt and change their beliefs and approach to the education of individuals with different learning styles and needs.

The mission of the Peace Corps is to help individuals become capable of solving their development problems on their own. As a volunteer, I have been offered an opportunity to affect social and educational development in Grenada. I continue to be challenged both personally and professionally as I adapt my skills and attitudes and attempt to facilitate change on many levels. My role, until I terminate my service, is to assist the Ministry of Education to improve and strengthen its institutional capacity in the area of special education. In addition, I am working to revitalize Special Olympics Grenada, consult with national and regional higher education establishments about the development of special education programs, and continue to provide direct treatment services to families and their young children with developmental disabilities.

Through example, my parents supported the concept of volunteerism and community service. I was fortunate to come from an enriched family environment and to have access to higher education. As a result, it has been important for me to spend time volunteering and advocating for individuals who have not had the same access to appropriate educational services and/or lack family support in their home environments.

So far, I believe I have been successful in my mission to share knowledge and experiences and have enjoyed the unique challenges of developmental work in a cross-cultural context with constantly changing circumstances. As a result of my experiences so far, I have expanded my knowledge base in many directions and have learned to truly appreciate family, friends, and the many opportunities available to me in the United States. The Peace Corps familiar motto, "the toughest job you値l ever love," is certainly true in many ways, and I will continue to ponder that motto until the close of my service.

If individuals are interested in supporting my efforts in Grenada, please consider donating new or gently used children痴 books. Presently, there is an effort to develop libraries in primary schools around Grenada. In order to develop these libraries, Grenada has networked with the Reader-to-Reader program based in Atlanta, GA. To find out more information about the Reader-to-Reader program and how to collect and prepare books for mailing, please visit www.childrensliterature.org.

Please contact me via e-mail with any questions and to receive specific mailing information for schools in Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique.

. . . . . . . . .

David J. Hajjar was a school-based SLP before beginning his stint in July 2001 as a PCV in Grenada. Contact him by e-mail at davemolly@hotmail.com.

. . . . . . . . .

Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean

Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean (PC-EC) is under the Inter-America and Caribbean Region and includes Antigua/Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Lucia (headquarters for the region), and Grenada.

The Peace Corps entered the EC in 1961, when St. Lucia became one of the first five countries to receive PCVs. Approximately 80 volunteers are currently serving in the EC, but that number is expected to grow over the next five years. The volunteer time commitment is 24 months. In addition, there is a six-week initial training period in the EC.

PC programming on each island nation of the EC is guided by the development priorities of the local governments. Programming activities on the five island nations are under constant review; however, at this time, there are five primary areas of need:

youth and community development

special education

information and communication technology

small business development

health education, primarily HIV/AIDS

For more information, visit the Peace Corps Web site at www.peacecorps.gov or contact your local recruiting office.

Grenada in Brief

Total landmass of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique = 133 square miles

Grenada is the main and largest island12 miles wide and 21 miles long.

Grenada is the southernmost of the Windward Islands, north of Trinidad and west of Barbados.

Only 100 miles from Venezuela, Grenada is 12 degrees north of the equator.

The climate is muggy and warm, with an average temperature in the 80s, moderate-to-heavy rainfall from June to December (rainy season), and dryer and cooler weather from January to May (dry season).

Total population = approximately 96,000 (Grenada: 91,000; Carriacou and Petite Martinique: 5,000)

The capital is St. Georges, located on the southern coast of the island.

Grenada is governed under a parliamentary system inherited from the British.

Notable historical event: 1983 Intervention傭ecause of political turmoil, Caribbean and U.S. forces intervened in October 1983 to assist in restoring a democratic form of government. Since that time, the government has remained stable and there have been three free elections in 1984, 1990, and 1995.

The economy is largely agricultural, based on nutmeg, banana, and cocoa production. Tourism continues to grow in significance.

References

Guilmet, G. (1981). Maternal perceptions of urban Navajo and Caucasian children痴 classroom behavior. Human Organization, 38, 8791.

Harris, G. A. (1993). American Indian cultures: A lesson in diversity. In D. E. Battle (Ed.), Communication disorders in multicultural populations (pp. 78113). Stoneham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Harris, G. A. (1998). American Indian cultures: A lesson in diversity. In D. E. Battle (Ed.), Communication disorders in multicultural populations (2nd ed., pp. 117156). Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Philips, S. U. (1983). The invisible culture: Communication in classroom and community on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. New York: Longman.

Williams, R. (1994). Reflections on Native American Heritage in New Mexico. Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque Human Rights Office.

Wilson, L. C. (1994, November). Language development as perceived by reservation-based Navajo families. Paper presented at the annual Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, New Orleans, LA.



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Story Source: The Asha Leader

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Grenada; Speech-Language-Hearing

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