More Than Just Speech Therapy
My name is Aubrey and I’m a clinical fellow SLP for Hope Speaks. I’m excited to have the chance to share a little about my journey and all the wonderful things that are happening because of Hope Speaks’ ministry!
With the craziness of finishing my degree in July and jumping on a plane in August to begin my 9 month journey here, I came to Uganda with limited expectations and knowledge of what my experience would entail. However, I absolutely knew God was calling me to 1. Serve children in need of speech therapy in communities that lacked the ability to provide such services and 2. Be part of a team that advocates for these children through changing the negative stigma surrounding disabilities in Uganda.
One of the most memorable conversations I’ve had was with a mother at the Mukisa Foundation, one of Hope Speaks outreach locations. She opened up to me about what it is really like to raise a child with a disability in this culture. She led me through her story beginning with how her doctor failed to educate her about her son’s condition and how her husband decided to leave after he realized his son was not typically developing. I also heard stories of how her neighbors avoid her son and believe they would “catch” his “disease” if they were to touch him. With nowhere to turn, she brought her son to a witch doctor in hopes he could be cured. My heart broke as I could feel how this mother was left feeling all alone and in the dark until she learned of the Mukisa Foundation.
Since this mother began bringing her son to Mukisa to receive speech and physiotherapy, she has been able to build a community and support system with the other caregivers. Through this support system, she has been empowered to believe in her child and continues to seek the services he needs to succeed. She has also received education regarding her son’s diagnosis and is dedicated to educating her neighbors and community members to join the movement in changing the stigma surrounding not only her son but all individuals living with disabilities.
Moments and stories like these continually remind me speech therapy is so much more than supporting each child to reach their communication goals. Speech therapy is about looking at the whole picture and believing in the power of connecting with others while offering support and empowerment. I feel so blessed to be able to educate this mother while giving her the resources to best support her son’s speech and language development. He is now engaging with others and beginning to use a variety of sounds! There is so much truth to the mission of Hope Speaks. Everyday this team and I get to offer hope and raise voices for children with disabilities not only through speech therapy, but through advocacy, and education. One family at a time, the stigma is beginning to change and children’s lives are forever changing for the better!