Audiologist Helps Mozambique’s Hearing-Impaired
“The most fun is when you see the kids who are hearing their mother’s voice for the first time.” — Callier Professor Jackie L. Clark
Aug. 15, 2008
Malaria, 60 indigenous languages and fundraising are just a few of the obstacles that audiologist Jackie L. Clark faces on her annual humanitarian visits to Mozambique to provide audiology services. The professor at UT Dallas’ Callier Center for Communication Disorders is well-equipped to take on the challenges.
Her first trip was in 1998 after an invitation from fellow church members in Dallas who had traveled to Chicuque, Mozambique, to teach English the previous year. Clark e-mailed the missionary nurse at the Chicuque Rural Hospital to learn more about the community’s needs.
“It's a teaching hospital that trains nurses. I told them I was an audiologist and would be happy to do some training with their medical technicians or whatever the need might be,” she said. “I had no idea what was possible.”
That first trip was funded through financial contributions from friends and equipment donated by manufacturers. Clark also brought along some stock ear molds.
“I showed them a hearing aid—they had never seen one. They call them ‘hearing apparatuses,’ ” she said. “I was able to dispense hearing aids out of the handful I brought. The first person to receive an aid was an orphaned boy.”
A greater challenge for Clark arose in 2004 when children who are deaf were mainstreamed in schools. In making this change, Mozambique was following the lead of other developing countries. But education for children who are deaf had started only five years before.
“It was poorly planned. Children who can’t speak or hear Portuguese are being mainstreamed,” Clark said. Many children progress only to fourth or fifth grade because no instruction in sign language is allowed beyond that age. “It’s not unusual to have a 21-year-old in the first grade. To be promoted, you have to speak and write Portuguese—and that's not going to happen for these children.”
For the past three years, Clark and her team have been screening students in the first, third, and fifth grades in one school—a total of 1,800 children.
Families throughout Mozambique will walk hours to get to Clark’s hearing clinics. “The most fun is when you see the kids who are hearing their mother’s voice for the first time,” she said.
Last year Clark was awarded a research adjunct teaching position at the University of Witwatersrand in neighboring Johannesburg, South Africa. This appointment may help in her quest to involve more South Africans in the hearing screenings and improve the continuity of hearing services.
The Callier Center, with locations in Dallas and on the UT Dallas campus in Richardson, is one of the nation’s preeminent educational, research and treatment centers focusing on communication and communication disorders. The center is part of the university’s School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
This article has been adapted from The ASHA Leader, where writer Dee Naquin Shafer is an assistant managing editor.