December 18, 2018  

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IDS Intern Plans to Take Lessons Learned Back to Kenyan Homeland

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Nuala Ribeiro

Kenyan native Nuala Ribeiro learned a significant lesson during her recent internship with The University of Southern Mississippi’s Institute for Disability Studies – that a “societal change of attitude” is crucial to ensuring disability rights.

Ribeiro came to USM’s Hattiesburg campus as part of the ADA International Fellowship Program. She spent approximately four weeks working in the Mississippi Early Childhood Inclusion Center at IDS to learn about and adapt programs for her young students back in Kenya.

“When there are high expectations for people with disabilities, it is easier to create pathways for them to succeed in school, employment and life,” said Ribeiro. “My time at IDS has shown me the possibilities for PWD from birth all the way to adulthood. I have learned about the impact holistic early intervention makes in the development of a child and how quality interventions need to be provided at every stage of life.”

The ADA International Fellowship Program is part of the Professional Fellows Program, an exchange initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The program is administered by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston (ICI).

The Mississippi Early Childhood Inclusion Center (MECIC) promotes early childhood inclusion by providing support to families, while guiding teachers on best practices for including young children with disabilities in early childhood classrooms.

MECIC Director Dr. Alicia Westbrook notes that Ribeiro’s passion for helping young children and her desire to acquire as much knowledge as possible left a lasting impression on members of the center’s staff.

“Although we planned for multiple learning experiences for Nuala, I wasn’t prepared for the learning myself and our team would experience,” said Westbrook. “The opportunity to host an International Fellow allowed us to reflect on our cultural competence and practices we employ to support families, early childhood educators, and young children with disabilities.”

Westbrook added that Ribeiro made daily contributions through conversations, strategies, and observations of MECIC practices. She indicated that although Ribeiro’s time with the center has ended, “there will be future collaborations and continued opportunities to work together.”

Ribeiro says that her first step upon returning to Kenya will be to develop an early intervention program to ensure that all children, within their first 1,000 days, start out in a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment.

“The project will be family focused and will support parents to become more responsive to their child’s needs,” she said. “It also aims at strengthening the community so that they are enabled to take care of their own. This will be done in collaboration with IDS and development partners in Kenya.”

To learn more about all of the programs offered by USM’s Institute for Disability Studies, call 601.266.5163 or visit: