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A delegation from the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) will fly to Zambia on March 30 for two weeks of work with disability rights leaders developing and improving services and supports for people with disabilities and their families. The trip is part of the work of the Twin Cities Zambia Disability Connection – a partnership of ICI, Arc Greater Twin Cities, Fraser, Opportunity Partners, and Zambian disability rights leaders – which was formed in 2008. This will be the fourth time ICI staff have traveled to Zambia (Zambian delegations visited the Twin Cities in 2008 and 2010), and it will be the first time there has been an emphasis on autism.
The ICI staff making the trip are Amy Hewitt, one of the founders of the project who has traveled to Zambia previously, along with Kelly Nye-Lengerman, Jean Ness, and Matt Schuelka, who are making the trip for the first time. “This will be an amazing journey,” says Kelly. “I am eager to share our knowledge and expertise, but am also excited about what they will teach and share with us. The knowledge exchanged will hopefully lead to improved supports for individuals with disabilities in Zambia, and provide us with more real-world experience in cultural competence.” Asked about her part in the trip, Jean says, “I expect to share specific skills that I have developed in working with American Indian students around learning styles and transition planning, and compare and contrast the value of those supports. In addition, I hope to learn new skills in working with diverse indigenous populations that will assist and inform all of my work.” And Matt adds, “I expect to experience a richer understanding of education issues related to students with disabilities. Since disability is very culturally located, it will be interesting to experience it in a different culture and with a different set of resources.”
While there, the ICI team will conduct trainings with teachers, clinical staff, policymakers, and families on autism, autism assessments, and behavioral interventions and tools for children with autism, as well as on supporting all youth with disabilities as they make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. They will also conduct observations in classroom and home-based settings of children who might have autism, and partner with the Zambian Institute for Special Education and University of Zambia faculty on participatory action research related to autism observations and assessments. Additionally, they will meet with families, teachers, disability rights organizations, and others to discuss living with a disability in Zambia, self-advocacy, inclusion, and disability policy.
“The last time our Zambian colleagues were here they had a chance to visit the autism spectrum disorders clinic at the University and a number of autism-specific programs in Minnesota,” notes Amy. “They asked us to help them build autism expertise in Zambia. This trip is hopefully the first of many exchanges that will focus on autism.”
A recent grant from the University’s College of Education and Human Development supports some of this travel. FFI about the trip and project contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit http://twincitieszambiadisabilityconnection.blogspot.com/.