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Education

Northern Ireland Special Educators Discuss Practice With Allegheny County Educators

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Russell Tucker
/
Flickr

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit hosted 10 educators from Northern Ireland on Monday to discuss best practices for special education.

Administrators with the AIU, a service provider for 42 Allegheny County school districts, met with principals, speech therapists and teachers from the Belfast area. The educators have been hosts to students in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Study Abroad in Ireland program.

Janice Vance, a Northern Ireland native and director of undergraduate education in communication science and disorders at the University of Pittsburgh, has taken 200 of her students to the Belfast area to study models of practices and healthcare systems in the past 10 years.

“I’m also very interested in developing the student’s cultural competency in terms of their insight into what makes us preform and behave as we do, which is very important for any future clinician -- to have a perspective of where their future clients are coming from,” she said.

Vance said she now wants to extend the exchange of medical practice with those working in special education both in Belfast and Pittsburgh.

Nanci Sullivan, the AIU’s assistant executive director of special education and support services, said the two cities already share many practices.  

Belfast educators try "to get their students, if they need additional supports in their schools, back to their neighborhood schools. That’s what we try to do as well," Sullivan said.

Both local and visiting teachers involved in the Monday meeting noted similar challenges in not only the two cities, but globally. One principal of a special needs school in Northern Ireland said the country has acknowledged a growing special needs population as children are surviving difficult births because of medical advancement. More children are being diagnosed on the autism spectrum, teachers said.

The group will visit the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech and meet with more educators Pitt over the coming days.