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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What does inclusion of students with special needs look like in Haiti?

There were lots of excellent meetings today from those including the director of the Ministry of Education to the dean of the Faculty of Education at Regina Assumpta. Regina Assumpta is one of the most highly respected schools in Haiti and includes a primary and secondary school division as well as a Faculty of Education. We continue to move forward in these partnerships as we look to future endeavours.

However, a key conversation which was not part of our official meetings was what really captured my attention today. After we had met with the dean at Regina Assumpta, a principal at the school wanted to talk with us about students with special needs. She explained that if a student did not perform well academically, the student would not be allowed to re-enroll the following year. She described how she had observed students, likely with learning disabilities, having to leave the school not because they didn't work hard hard but because of their disability.

We talked about this at length and it was clear that she was passionate about developing a way to support these students. In a city of close to a million people, there are no educational psychologists or clinics to help in the assessment of learning disabilities. Regina Assumpta is one of the best schools in the country and has a solid facility and teaching record. If a school such as this cannot provide support for students with special needs, what further challenges would other schools face?

I teach a course at Laurier which has a focus on special education. In many ways, what she is describing is frighteningly similar to the context in Canada 50 years ago. We have made huge strides in Ontario but at a significant price. Is it possible to transfer some of the lessons we have learned and witnessed in one of the wealthiest parts of the world to one of the poorest?

I would love to be part of her vision for developing programs and supports for students with special needs in Haiti. So what do we do next?

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