This specialized two-week program is based in the Central American country of Belize and is intended for undergraduate or graduate students ages 18 and up who are interested in pursuing a career in speech-language pathology (speech therapy), audiology or a related field. This is an ideal program for students who want to take advantage of learning from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certified speech-language pathologists (SLPs) specializing in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) assessment and intervention. AAC is remarkable, yet often portrayed as intimidating, field of study because students, and even some professionals, may have limited to no experience with children with complex communication needs such as cerebral palsy. Therefore, students will be immersed in an active learning environment that includes hands-on experience rarely found in the classroom, professional observation hours, supervised hands-on experience providing assessment and intervention, one-to-one mentoring by SLPs and other professionals, intercultural exchange, and a better understanding of global issues.
June 30 – July 14
The focus of this two-week program is to provide an opportunity for students to implement sustainable and culturally relevant AAC interventions that will significantly impact the functional communication of local school-age children with little to no functional speech. First, Therapy Abroad students will participate in a series of pre-departure AAC video lectures and readings as well as in-country AAC training/discussions designed to prepare them for the unique needs of the local population. Second, students will be mentored through the AAC evaluation and report-writing process. Third, students will have opportunities to purchase locally sourced materials to construct AAC systems that are sustainably designed and consider the needs of the local population. These systems will be implemented using the most current evidence-based practice considerations (Allen, Schlosser, Brock & Shane, 2017) and intervention protocols (e.g., Binger & Light, 2008) within a play-based AAC Summer Camp atmosphere. Specifically, students will help design a series of stations targeting both AAC skills (e.g., navigating to symbols) and language skills (e.g., syntax and literacy). Finally, students and professionals will develop and provide communication partner training to ensure sustainability of the AAC systems (e.g., system development) and generalization of communication skills (e.g., expressive syntax) targeted at camp.
In addition to working with SLPs, your group will interact with government organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private clinics, and charitable organizations to bring services to children throughout the country. Students will also engage in interprofessional practice with allied health professionals such as physical therapists (PTs), occupational therapists (OTs), social workers (SWs), and medical doctors (MDs) in small groups. This interprofessional opportunity will allow us to learn about the AAC considerations for children with motoric and physical impairments from PTs and OTs. It will also allow students to provide training to allied health professionals with respect to AAC, speech & language disorders, behavior modification, and variables related to English as a second language.
Prerequisites for this program include a familiarity with AAC, either through an introductory course, training or clinical experience, and students from any department or major may apply. In lieu of or in addition to having one of the pre-requisites above, students may still participate but will be required to watch a video lecture series, “What is AAC, and How Do I Implement It?” In this condensed video lecture series, you will learn about the different symbols types available to SLPs and individuals with complex communication needs. Moreover, you will learn about the variety of ways that SLPs can organize those symbols within an AAC system such as a communication book or topic display. Finally, you will learn how to provide Aided AAC Modeling interventions to enhance your clients’ receptive/expressive language structure, literacy/narrative development, and social interaction skills. Some videos will also encourage you to practice these newly learned skills so that you are prepared for our AAC Adventure.
Spaces for this program are limited and fill up quickly. All applications will be individually evaluated on a rolling basis. The AAC program will primarily include children, and all applicants should possess skills that reflect creativity and flexibility for the best experience.
Most Therapy Abroad students chose to fly on one of our organized group flights and will be joined by at least one Therapy Abroad staff member to help you through international check-in and departure process. On arrival day (Saturday), all students will be greeted by additional staff at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) and from there you will be driven by private bus through beautiful scenery to the Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. After checking into your rooms, students will have a home cooked dinner and then attend a short orientation and safety briefing. Monkey Bay is a not-for-profit education and training center that provides academic, experiential learning, and service programs while serving as a model of conservation land Stewardship in Belize. Monkey Bay offers a beautiful, safe and comfortable setting for all of our students and staff and an excellent staging point for our entry into the nearby community. Through our partnership with Monkey Bay, we hope that Therapy Abroad students will not only gain a deeper understanding of communication sciences and disorders, but also a deeper insight into the unique ecological and cultural landscape of this amazing country.
Monday through Friday will consist of time spent at local clinics preparing and implementing our AAC camp. In the afternoons, students will have training and discussions as well as spend time in local markets and stores purchasing locally sourced materials to construct AAC systems. In the evenings students will be mentored through the AAC evaluation and report-writing process.
Over the weekends, the group will experience the best of Belize with included trips to the Xuantunich Maya Archaeological Site, cave tubing, jungle ziplining, visits to local markets and a full weekend beach and snorkeling excursion to Caye Caulker Island!
You will stay in basic dormitory accommodation with communal areas to relax, meeting areas for group discussion, and plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces to explore with fellow students. Every day students will have access to Wi-Fi, fresh drinking water, western style toilets and showers, laundry services and most importantly, plenty of hammocks to kick back in a soak up the natural beauty all around. Meals will be home-cooked Belizean and Western cuisine consisting of rice and beans, chicken, fish, pasta, and other meats along with fresh vegetables and fruits. We have a 100% guarantee that you will have plenty of amazing food! We can cater to specific dietary needs as long as you let us know ahead of time. In addition to Belize’s many scenic charms, the warmth and hospitality of the people and culture will make every adventure a pleasure.
Students with Therapy Abroad will find out that we pack a lot of activities into a two-week program, but we will also make sure you have down time to relax, write in your journal, use the internet, talk to our staff and explore. Our Staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. If you have any questions about any opportunities not listed in our program, want to try some new food a friend has told you about or just try something different, then let us know anytime before or during your program and we will do our best to make it happen.
$3,950 USD not including international airfare. Airfare from the Continental USA is estimated at $650. Therapy Abroad will organize group flights from major hubs in the USA.
We know that travel and study abroad is a big investment and our promise to you is that we will work hard every day to make sure you are going to have the most amazing experience, best staff, tastiest meals, an excellent itinerary full of the best activities and the meaningful hands-on experience that you are expecting. With the exception of international airfare, our trips are all-inclusive. We won’t try to upsell you on any “additional activities” or “additional optional activities” that are advertised as part of the program. Your tuition covers: All activities. All materials. All meals. All housing. Everything. We want all of our students to arrive and participate fully in every activity and every learning experience without ever thinking about how much money they are going to spend.