October 26, 2012
Hola from Costa Rica! I would have liked to publish this post a week ago, but between coordinating an empowerment project for a local dance group, working with children in the primary school, and administering neuropsychological testing and counseling sessions to families, I have been hard-pressed to find a spare moment. All of this work has been very rewarding and my Cognitive Development and Empowerment Project is progressing very nicely as well. I couldn’t be happier with the way the girls are embracing the empowerment workshops and I am thrilled that they are so enthusiastic about the work that we are doing together. On the whole, the past few weeks have been particularly exciting and as I sit down to write this post I find myself scanning through a wide range of possible topics to share with you. I think the most important recent event however, is my connection and experience working with a young girl named Kambly.
Kambly is amazing. She is generous, playful, and has a smile that can light up the room. She loves to draw and paint, and based on the level of comfort and playfulness that she shares with me now, it’s hard to believe that throughout the first week of our relationship she did not speak. Kambly is extremely shy with new people and unless she is shown patience and respect she won’t open up. Unfortunately, many people only display frustration towards her and are unable to connect with her in an effective way. Because of this lack of positive stimulation and encouragement along with a preexisting developmental delay, she has fallen devastatingly behind in her education and social development.
To better understand her cognitive abilities, I administered a complex set of neuropsychological tests to Kambly over a two-day period. These tests targeted a wide range of developmental areas including verbal and perceptional reasoning, working memory, and processing speed. The testing process was very difficult, in large part because Kambly had never had someone work so attentively with her for an extended period of time. She struggled in almost every area of the test and based on her results, I developed a wide range of simple, age-appropriate and developmentally stimulating activities that her family could do with her each day.
I arranged a meeting with Kambly’s mother and the CEPIA Psychologist to discuss the results and my suggestions. I approached the meeting with a delicate tone; I wanted her mother to understand the severity of her daughter’s condition without being overwhelmed by the poor test results. I felt that Kambly has a great deal of potential as long as her mother was dedicated to working with her, and I wanted to make that clear. As we progressed through the meeting, I carefully explained the testing process, the results, and the activities in that she could do with her daughter. Kambly’s mother remained fairly silent throughout the meeting, nodding every now and then, and when I had finished, I was surprised by her comments. Not only did she did not care about her daughters performance, but she was bothered by the fact that she had to do these activities with her. I later learned that she had been asked several times by individuals at CEPIA and in the school to work with Kambly at home and create a positive learning environment for her but she continually resisted. I was so saddened by this response but was determined to make her understand the critical importance of her working with her daughter. After a few more meetings, she agreed that if I created the materials for her to use (so that she really had to put in no effort at all) she would try to work with Kambly. I am in the process of making these activities for her with the hope that she will use them with her daughter.
There are so many children here who are struggling developmentally, socially, and emotionally and many of them are still undiagnosed and are not being offered the resources to succeed. There are also many parents here that would jump on the opportunity to help their child. It is so disheartening that the resources, however basic, are being offered to Kambly and her mother does not care to take advantage of them. I am hopeful, though, that with a bit of nudging and the activities laid out for her, she will find the time to help her daughter.
This whole instance speaks to why I came to volunteer at CEPIA and why there is such a need for good-intentioned, patient volunteers in this community. The kids here have so much passion and the desire to do great things but so many do not receive the guidance and support that they need. I am hoping that with Kambly and my continued dedication to her case, I can work with her, her mother, and her teachers to ensure that everyone is working together to help her reach her potential.
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