Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

download (2).jpegThe Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Psychology has held a conference on “Students with disabilities”, specifically the inclusion settings of the given students in AUC. Psychology faculty and psychologists from outside the AUC community have participated in the conference to talk about the inclusion settings in Egypt, public schools and in AUC in specific.

A study has been conducted in 2008 to measure whether is a connection between the nature of disability and the support provided and how inclusive it is in AUC. Researchers have used semi -structured interviews with all the key players and an online survey to all faculty in UAC whether full time or part time (126 responded if 784). The study is based on responses of 52 out of 670 of AUC faculty recommending some suggestion to be implemented for better inclusion settings. Some of these are: faculty members need to be made aware of the students’ disabilities before meeting them, using a unified language in reference to persons with disabilities and assessment and support need to be on campus.

Concerning the way AUC admission deal with students with disabilities; the admission procedure for students with disabilities is exactly the same as everyone. There is no differentiation in acceptance requirements for students with disabilities. In addition to that the assessment support is till an issue it was mentioned that it was very expensive and time consuming, as the psychometrician takes more money when he/she is not a member of AUC faculty and it takes more time to send the report on the students with disability.

Besides the university’s efforts to include students with disabilities sin mainstream classes; the latter have some responsibilities to carry on for a successful inclusion. Students are asked to take responsibility of showing professors the letters that bear the accommodations they require, to make students with disabilities feel instrumental in getting their services. They are encouraged to choose any major, regardless of their disability. Unfortunately, some students are turned away from the university if they require services not available e.g. Hearing Impairment. Sometimes students struggle to have their needs met in the major of their choice (engineering student).

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Accordingly, it is important to understand the nature of the disability to be able to provide the necessary utilities and services for those with disabilities. For instance, students with physical disabilities are catered for quite well as all the campus and the student living areas are fully accessible for wheelchairs; in addition to the presence of club cars that can be used for transportation through the campus. Some of the university’s services to ease the life of those with disabilities are:

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  • The special parking places for students with disabilities as mentioned by the Assistant Director of the Students Services office
  • Students with Visual Impairments. The University Academic Computing technologies (UACT) provides assistance in the use of some technologies to enable learning.
  • Students’ assistants or staff volunteers are recruited to help students with visual disabilities throughout the semester in the different academic tasks, including the class note taking, exam transcription, library research and other projects.

The Student mentoring unit and counseling center in UAC are implementing some administrative techniques to ensure the lasting of an inclusion setting, through keep tracking of the students’ educational and psychological state. The university provides English Placement Exams in – house (TOEFL or IELTS). It relieves the students of requesting accommodations, which can take at least 6 months wait time. It also provides the applicants the chance to reapply that is besides, the disability committee in AUC. However, there are problems with the legislation as the Student Disability Office has been told to not call the inclusion in AUC as being complete a sit is not 100% funded; and better to be called “supported”, so that they won’t have to do all the accommodations for students.

The university has responded to some of the recommendation based on the previous research and this year’s as well, in addition to the global instructions for having an inclusion setting. They are attempting to increase the number of staff working in the Mentoring and counseling units and assessment and support need to be on campus, despite the shortage of staff on campus and very expensive off campus.

On a national perspective, the National Strategic Plan of Education Reform is to turn special education schools into support centers and resources for inclusive education starting form the year 2014 to the year 2017. Consequently, if the given is implemented; inclusive education in the public schools of all school-age children with disabilities will become the only accepted children model. This would impose certain obstacles on having an inclusion system. The negative attitude of teachers in public schools, in adequate resources and large class sizes in public governmental school that would not enable teachers to focus with all students in the classroom.

Students with disabilities included in mainstream classes, are pulled outside classes and are required to spend more time in the resource room or with their support peers or teacher’s support to catch up with what they are missing form the content.

diversity.jpgThis has its drawbacks on their educational path. The students may miss valuable lessons in the general education class while attending the resource room. Most importantly, they may feel stigmatized for leaving the general education class to receive special help as well as the failure of the resource room and general classroom teachers to coordinate instruction.

It seems that Egypt has a problem in the structuring of the curriculum given to students in general in schools that are supervised by the government. As the curriculum is supposed to represent the society’s values as important for becoming a productive citizen and successful individual. Aiming to accommodate students with disabilities, it is necessary to prioritize the content to ensure that the most important content is mastered. It is important to focus on the way teachers deliver the content of the curriculum in a way that those with disabilities would understand and relate to it through having a meaningful purpose from what they learn.

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Trauma Psychology in Reality

 I want to share my experience about the visit of the Clinical Psychologist, Salwa Bernaba, to our trauma class this week. Honestly, there was not much of new things or terms that I have learned concerning trauma, but I have learned the some coping mechanisms and techniques to use with patients in the working field,

One of the most topics that clicked is the term “Red Flag”. When I heard the term “red flag”, it reminded me with the term “code blue” in “Grey’s Anatomy series”. Maybe, it is not related to the course we are taking, but somehow I was happy to know that I study topics related to medicine and to my obsession with this series. Psychologists usually use the term “Red Flag” when they feel that they are overwhelmed or are unable to notice their patient. At that point, it is better for the psychologist to step back and solve his/her issues and then return to the patient with a clear head in order to function as a psychologist not a human being with personal problems. It was the first time to know about the “red Flag”, and it is interesting to know that there is a concern about the well being of the psychologist and the way a psychologist’s negative affect might affect the treatment process of the patient.

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Further, there are two interesting techniques that I have learnt this week that helps in encouraging the patient to open up and talk about his/her traumatic experiences. The first psychodynamic technique is called “screening”, as Dr. Bernaba mentioned. She used the given technique with a patient who was taken as a hostage for seven years and she needed to make the patient feels that he is in control so he can start talking. The patient had Complex PTSD manifested in symptoms of loss of identity, hope and dissociation sometimes during the therapy, that’s why it is advisable to return the patient’s his identity and hope that he would be better and return to his normal life, not as a refugee. I think this technique would be very helpful with victims of rape or abuse regardless to its kinds.

Another method that the guest has mentioned using it and shared with the whole class asking the patient to write his/her bad event that happened in the past in the middle of a paper and drawing a circle around it and listing “who and what have helped you to overcome the traumatic or bad experience you had”. Then, the patient draws another circle around the first circle and is asked to write their experience from the incident they have passed through and the lessons they learned from it.

 

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Eventually, I think one of the most powerful and beneficial advises I learned this day is the necessity of having some rituals to abide by after finishing work and therapy sessions with the patients. For example, Bernaba said that some psychologists wash their hands or take shower as a way of washing away all the traumatic stories they have heard at work all the day and to be able to continue their personal life normally. It is important not to mingle between your personal life and your profession. This will help you, as psychologist to take a break from the traumatic stories you hear the whole day and will help you to be “fresh” for the following day to listen to new stories of the patients and be able to emphasize with them.

Psychologists need to empty their tank before refilling it with new stories and emphasize with patients without being secondary traumatized as possible as they could. It is worth mentioning that psychologists should take into consideration, the cultural differences and the restrictions it implies on psychologists when dealing with patients from different cultural and educational background. For instance, a patient who doesn’t talk the same language as the therapist (without the availability of the interpreter) and who can’t read or write, won’t be able to perform any of the given techniques that aid the patient to open up about their trauma.