Trip to CASP teaches Third World wisdom to KU students
Several KU-Lawrence students, most of them majors in speech-language-hearing, immersed themselves in the work of the Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú in late spring through a trip sponsored by KU Study Abroad.
Twelve students, nine undergraduates and two graduate in SPLH and one undergraduate in applied behavior analysis, visited Peru May 22-June 5 to learn about CASP and to interact with students and their families. SPHL faculty who coordinated the trip and accompanied the group were Nancy Brady, associate professor, and Stephanie Meehan, assistant clinical professor.
Brady said the KU students spent four days at CASP to learn about the program and participate in classroom activities. They observed CASP students in the community at various work sites, including a department store and fast-food restaurant. They also visited CASP students in their homes and witnessed how they interacted with parents and other family members. “In our country we typically don’t do home visits after a child turns three,” Brady said, “but CASP continues to work with families of older children at home. That was actually the highlight of the trip for many of our students and gave them more of a cultural perspective.”
The high level of patience and compassion demonstrated by the professors and employees at CASP especially impressed one of the students. Senior Lindsey Vanlooy said, “There was warmth among them that radiated positivity. Accountability and teamwork was a central theme with a strong emphasis on family involvement. The children were pushed to achieve skills that may have seemed impossible otherwise. The students we met at CASP perform important chores at home and many are employed, using their paychecks to help support their families.”
The KU group also visited an orphanage in Lima, the largest in Latin America. “That had a profound impact on the students,” Brady said. “There were children from infancy through adolescence and we spent a morning playing and interacting with them. They were all receiving very good care but it was all congregate care and the students observed a lack of socialization and play skills. Because of the strict adoption laws in Perú, only about two children are able to leave the orphanage a year. They had just started bonding with us by the time we had to go and many of us were in tears when we left.”
The KU students spent another day at a center that serves adolescents up to age 17 who had been living on the streets and had a history of drug abuse. Brady said most of the females they met had been working as prostitutes.
The group devoted its final days to soaking up the beauty of Perú as a whole, visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu and hiking in the mountains.
Vanlooy believed that the trip changed any biases she may have held before that the United States has little to learn from Third World countries. It also reaffirmed her belief in the importance of her chosen field of study. “This experience solidified my deep passion for the field of communication disorders and the ideology that a core aspect of humanity is human connection – communicating and being understood. Individuals with different abilities, throughout the world, can contribute to their families and communities in large ways.”