Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Teaching is Hard, but Grilled Cheese is Harder

We just finished our first three days of work in Iceland! We have been slacking on blogging because we are trying to squeeze in our workload and some fun and sightseeing on the side! The 24 hours of light situation is definitely messing with us. We don’t know when to go to bed or when to wake up. We have all woken up at least once in the middle of the night thinking we slept past our alarms.

The preschool experience has been really fun and interesting for all of us. We broke up into pairs and each of us is working with one student and all of the teachers they work with in the classroom.

Ashley and Riley are working on training table time to all of the teachers in one preschool. They helped teach sitting in a group during circle time, singing songs and playing with peers, taking turns with peers, pretend play, and transitioning between activities. They were even offered the lunch at the preschool and one included Skyr (a delicious yogurt-like food that is super popular here) and lamb’s blood and patte oat crackers. They were brave enough to give it a taste, but it isn’t likely to be a regular snack when they get home.

Julia and Lizzy are working with a little boy who is very young and doesn’t speak or use sign language. We want to help him with playground independent play, transitioning around the school, and most importantly teaching him a mode of communication that he can use long term! We are also helping him with his feeding program so that he eats more food during school time.

Greg and Hannah were assigned a young boy who was having trouble communicating and socializing with his peers. The boy’s teacher was very eager to teach him to talk more and communicate his needs. He’s a super sweet boy who loves praise and tickles and Greg and Hannah are already finding that is making progress in the programs that they created for him. They’re hoping to provide some recommendations for a toileting program that will help him transition from diapers to regular underwear in his daily life. Greg and Hannah are very happy with the interactions they’ve had with the boy’s teacher and believe she will do a great job with him in the future!

Our week has been a whirlwind for observing, training, and having our first experience consulting. Tomorrow is our first workshop where all of the teachers and the consultants from the diagnostic center will sit in on our training. 

We have also had quite the experience in our hotel and getting to our hotel. We have been told police are uncommon and crime almost never happens. We came home Saturday night to our hotel filled with police. Our professors were sure that something bad happened to us or that we saw a spider and screamed too loud so someone called the cops, but we swear it wasn’t us! We still aren’t quite sure, but we found out the police come in larger numbers because they don’t carry guns. We were assured that all was well though and we were safe to go in our rooms. A couple nights later, we decided to save some money and make grilled cheese. Suddenly the fire alarms set off on 2 of the 3 floors. It was so loud that we went out to see what was going on and it was us and our smoky grilled cheeses. We had to wait about 15 minutes before the fire deparment could turn off the alarm. People came out of every room, but everyone was very sympathetic instead of getting angry! Half of us had class last night. We hopped on the bus and accidentally took it 20 extra stops. We like to think it was just us getting to see even more of Iceland than we had planned! We also had a breakfast mishap where the eggs on the egg sandwich fell three floors and splat on the ground right next to a hotel guest. I’m not surprised if the front desk people are waiting for us to get out of here….

We also got to watch the Iceland-England soccer game on Monday! We picked up some hot dogs which are quite popular here and plopped right in the middle of so many Reykjavik locals. Everyone cheered "Afram Islan" which we think means "Come on, Iceland!" They had a cool drum chant where they would wait for a beat of a drum and then clap over their heads and then the drum beat got faster and faster. It was such a cool chance to be a part of something so exciting for Icelanders and soccer fans alike! The square was so full of people who laughed, hugged, and cried when Iceland won! It was a perfect evening and some of us even stayed out to see the midnight sun, which is so beautiful to see over the mountain tops!

Time to head out and prepare for our workshops tomorrow… Wish us luck!! J


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Day 2, 3, and 4!

We woke up Friday excited and ready to head to the diagnostic center! Well, to be honest, we woke up Friday like anyone would when they realize it’s actually only 4:30 AM- a little cranky and ready to find some coffee (or kaffi as they spell it here)! After we filled ourselves up with some homemade eggs and toast in our mini kitchens, we were excited and ready to find kaffi! Except we realized we were late… so we smiled through the sleep deprivation and headed to the lobby.  We met two very friendly people in the lobby, with names it may take us a while to learn to pronounce. Icelandic names are so interesting and cool, but they seem to sound so much better when everyone else says them than when we make an attempt.

After meeting a man and woman from the centre (insert some very cool Icelandic names that we haven’t quite figured out how to pronounce, let alone spell, but we are trying!!), we got in their cars and discussed the language, politics, and how much we were looking forward to joining their crew for the week.  We drove about ten minutes to a large diagnostic center. We climbed about 5 flights of stairs with no elevator in sight. It’s no wonder everyone here seems so fit.

We finally made it to the top floor and to our surprise, they had a fancy coffee maker that even had espresso! We were already filled with excitement about learning about the center, knowledge we want to share, an opportunity to learn, a chance to meet and collaborate with new people in a different culture.. All we needed was a little caffeine boost.. and here it was!!  So now we were caffeinated and ready to go!

The room filled up with about 40 people and our professors, Lauren and Jackie, began their presentation on the importance of culturally competent care.  During the interactive talk, we learned a lot about what is different between parenting and care in Iceland compared to the United States.  We also learned that there has been a lot of immigration from Europe to Iceland, especially from Poland. We learned a lot about how they take into account the different cultures that make up their client base which is something we encounter often in our diverse city. We talked about strategies to make sure we all have a plan to help the families and children, while making it a priority to keep their cultural values at the center of that plan.

We broke into small groups to meet two adorable children at the center.  A young girl was born premature and was currently receiving ABA services for feeding problems.  She needed to gain weight and fast! The BCBAs had been able to use a behavior analytic approach to reduce her vomiting from ten to one time per day and she had gained some amount of kilograms. We aren’t sure how the metric system works, but they told us that it was about a pound! Our group hasn’t had a lot of experience with feeding programs, and it was cool to see an effective treatment that could potentially replace the need for a medical intervention. 

The other cutie only had a few words, mama, papa, some speech sounds, and my personal favorite “nom nom nom” when she wanted to eat! We watched a manding session (fancy ABA talk for requesting for items she may be interested in to help teach more words) where the teacher played with her and paired words like “book” and “ball” with sign language and the vocal Icelandic word. Research shows that teaching sign language has improved vocal speech with children with disabilities. This session looked a lot more like what we do day to day in the states! The parents also stayed through the entire session for both children. Parent involvement seems very important here in Iceland!

After the morning session, we listened to some powerpoints about the diagnostic centre. We learned that they serve THE ENTIRE country! The population of Iceland is about 390,000 people and the number of kids that this centre helps is about 500. They have to travel through some serious weather conditions to help the kiddos out on the other side of Iceland. The people at the centre were so welcoming and excited to share everything they do with us. 4 BCBA’s work at the centre along with many other professionals. They use a multidisciplinary model and work together with speech therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and physical therapists. We can’t even imagine how hard everyone must work to make sure the kids have enough services!

We learned more about the assessments they use for each child and how the preschools here work. All children go to preschool anywhere from age 2-3! The preschools are organized by district. We learned about our placements for the coming week and what kind of cases we will get to help with. By the end of the day, we had learned so much about what ABA is like here in Iceland, and we are looking forward to Monday coming!

After we left the centre, we got our first taste of Icelandic living! We were finally adjusting to the time change and 24 hours of light so we decided to hit the town. We ate tacos (very Icelandic, we know. In our defense, we did have fish tacos..) and just to show how small Iceland was, we happened to be at the same restaurant the employees from the centre were at! We also got crepes and went dancing, before heading home from downtown Reykjavik. We slept through the light hours and then explored more of downtown. Laundromat was a great restaurant that knew how to do brunch.. eggs, bacon, pancakes, yogurt, salad, and bread all in one meal! Plus, they had some mean milkshakes. We caught the Poland football game in the square and drank a lot more kaffi. We also got to go up to the clock tower in a beautiful church and look out over all of the city. On Sunday, we went on a tour to see two waterfalls, a puffin (!!!!), a black sand beach with cool rock formations, and we got to stand on a glacier. It’s been a full and fun weekend, but we are so ready to get to work tomorrow!!

Thanks for reading and we will update you again soon! J

Love, Hannah, Julia, Riley, Ashley, Lizzy, and Greg


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Being the first one in the group to make it to the airport, I thought it would be a good idea to start our blog that we promised to those who supported us! After hearing about people missing their flights even when they came 2 hours early because of TSA, I made my girlfriend drive me to the airport 3 hours early. It took me less than 10 minutes to get through everything, therefore I am the first one here. Our group is very excited to get going, this trip has been in the works for a long time. I remember applying to transfer to Regis and learning about the opportunity to work abroad. We’ve done a lot of work to get here, from gofundme and razoo accounts, to a couple yardsales and social event fundraisers, we’re finally on our way. We want to thank everyone who has supported us to get us to this point. Just to give you a little heads up about the beginning of our trip, most of us are flying to Iceland tonight and will arrive tomorrow morning at 4 am. The rest of us will arrive tomorrow and tomorrow will be a free day to get acclimated and acquainted with our living space and some of Iceland. On Friday, the work begins! We will be working with families and other professionals to assess the skills and challenges of a kiddo native to Iceland. At the end of the day, we will be providing a session for the family and professionals we worked with based off of our recommendations and what we recommend. All of this will take place at a diagnostic center and we’ll be working with infants as early as 6 weeks old! We’re excited to get started and to share our experiences with you!