PAHO-ASHA Workshop - Working with Children with Hearing Loss and Autism

5 Jul 2019
Working with children

July 5, 2019 - The National Resource Center for Inclusive Education (NaRCIE) was the venue for a three-day Train-the Trainers workshop which ended today 4/7/19.  The objective was to sensitize staff of the Inspiration Center, NaRCIE staff, and Primary School Teachers in detecting at early stages signs of hearing loss and autism. This included sharing best practices on screening and diagnosing hearing loss techniques, as well as introduction to basic concepts on Autism.

The training was organized by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Inspiration Center of Belize in collaboration with the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association (ASHA), the latter being a PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center.

The detection and treatment of communication disorders in early school-age children is of the highest importance. Hearing plays a vital role in the acquisition of speech and language and the achievement of other developmental milestones in young children. There is no public audiology service in Belize, but screening is done at The Inspiration Center. It is therefore necessary to extend the skills of hearing testing/screening and detecting Autism to other stakeholders such as primary school teachers, NaRCIE and the Inspiration Center staff.

Dr. Edwin Bolastig, HSS Advisor, represented Dr. Noreen Jack, Belize PAHO/WHO Representative at the opening ceremony. He mentioned that children with speech, language and hearing impairments and developmental disorders such as autism are among the most vulnerable and quite often neglected, or sometime misunderstood or abused persons in our society. Training teachers to transform the lives of these children was therefore a way to address their needs. 

PAHO and WHO have long recognized the critical role that teachers play in the optimal development and well-being of our children. In 2018 in response to this, a workshop for teachers of the primary school level and technical personnel of The Inspiration Center on speech disorder was conducted.

This year the workshop is expected to improve on the skills provided last year while equipping the participants to also train others.

Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education acknowledged the validity and accreditation of this training for the teachers to obtain credit towards their Continuous Professional Development program.
Dr. Bolastig concluded, “Universal health coverage is an overarching goal of the health systems and is based on the values of primary health care adopted by the Member States of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), namely the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of health, equity and solidarity.”

At the end of the three-day training participants received certificates for their participation. In addition, Dr. Caesar presented to the Inspiration Center two tablets and a laptop used in the training for hearing screening.

The visiting team from ASHA was led by Dr. Lena G. Caesar, (Ph.D., Ed.D) who holds two doctoral degrees—one in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences/Speech-Language Pathology and the other in Special Education Administration from Western Michigan University. In 2017, Dr. Caesar was appointed by ASHA to chair the ad hoc committee for the ASHA-PAHO/WHO Belize Collaboration and is currently coordinating her second train-the-trainer workshop here in Belize. The team also included Dr. Carol Westby and Dr. Donna Pitts. Dr. Carol Westby is a consultant for Bilingual Multicultural Services in Albuquerque, NM and an affiliated professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. Dr. Donna Pitts is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at Loyola University Maryland, where she has been since 1997. She received her Doctor of Audiology from Central Michigan University, her M.S in Audiology from Towson University, and her B.S. in Psychology and Communication Sciences and Disorders from Towson University.

Dr. Juan Carlos Silva, PAHO/WHO Regional Advisor for Visual Health was also on hand and made presentations during the training.