Haring Center

February 20, 2020

Haring Center Builds Inclusive Education Partnership in Honduras

“An international exchange around inclusive education is an opportunity to network with other professionals, listen to stories from parents of children with special needs, learn from struggles and successes and share our passion,” says Pamela Matamoros, a Honduran entrepreneur and founder and director of Centro Psicopedagógico Eduktiva.

In October 2018, Matamoros spent four weeks at the Haring Center as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI). Matamoros applied for the YLAI Fellowship to expand her knowledge of inclusive education and grow Eduktiva to support more children.

“Pamela taught us what can be done when one person is committed to a vision for improving the lives of others,” says Haring Center Director Ilene Schwartz. “It was a true exchange — Pamela learned from our curriculum, research and training resources; we learned from her experience creating a community, building schools and providing education to children who had previously been excluded from the Honduran education system.”

This year, Matamoros received an additional award through YLAI for a reverse exchange to host a Haring Center staff member in Honduras. Erin Greager, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports team coordinator and Project DATA coach at the Haring Center, spent a week in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa (Honduras’ largest two cities) in November 2019 fulfilling the exchange.

Over the course of the week, Greager facilitated two days of training in each city and toured Eduktiva, an autism center and three other schools.

“We had to cap attendance at both trainings,” says Greager. “The number of people who showed up was really telling of how excited people are to create more inclusion opportunities for children in Honduras.”

Greager covered topics including Project DATA, positive behavior support, preventing and responding to challenging behavior and inclusive teaching practices. A broad spectrum of audience members turned out for Greager’s training: “We had people working in special education, program directors, school principals, psychologists, general education teachers, a speech-language pathologist, a BCBA and even families.”

At Eduktiva, Greager observed after-school tutoring sessions and she and Matamoros discussed different teaching strategies during a feedback session. “Many of Eduktiva’s clients have an identified disability or delay, and the tutoring program provides the necessary extra support,” explains Greager.

The autism center, Centro Inclusivo LUDCA, serves children in both short-term and long-term capacities. Children attend the center if they exhibit challenging behaviors or require extra academic support that their school cannot provide.

Greager toured three schools during the week: an urban public school serving predominantly children from low-income families, an early childhood center and a smaller private school.

She notes that while the variety of services and specialists available was less than in U.S. schools, she expected there to be more differences between the approach to inclusion in Honduran and U.S. education systems.

“We discussed the need to educate families and worked on that goal,” Greager said. “I had some great conversations with families about how to advocate for their children and how to ensure their children are receiving the services they need.”

Greager found that on the whole, the Honduran education system faces similar challenges to inclusion. “It may be a different scale and a different context, but we see the same barriers — and the same drive,” she says.

“Similar to in the U.S., inclusive practices in Honduran public schools lag behind what the research tells us,” says Greager. “People want to provide inclusive settings at school, but in both countries, we run into a lack of resources in every area: training, staff and money.”

“There is fear that communities will not be open to inclusive education, and educators will get pushback from people,” she explains.

Audiences at Greager’s trainings sought discussion around implementing inclusive practices with limited resources. “People generally had strong knowledge of inclusive practices,” says Greager. “They wanted to do more problem-solving and hear about the Haring Center’s approach.”

“We are doing our best with the resources we have,” says Matamoros. “But regardless of the resources, the passion of educators and community members is the most important component to creating a true inclusive environment.”

“Pamela has been finding different avenues to educate her community around inclusion,” says Greager. “Much of her work involves networking and bringing education to current teachers about inclusion and working with children with special needs.

“It was so helpful to see the strategies and tools we use at the Haring Center applied in different settings. Observing Pamela and others working toward inclusive education in Honduras in a space with different cultural norms and educational politics was invaluable.”

Greager says that she felt connected to people across countries and cultures, meeting her training audiences and touring schools and centers in Honduras. “Children are children. As teachers, we encounter so much of the same.”

“Every person deserves to be valued as a true part of our community,” she continues. “The more we can provide teachers with resources to make that happen, the better.”

Greager and Matamoros intend to continue building their partnership. They are currently planning a web training as a follow-up to the sessions Greager facilitated, in addition to another in-person workshop in Honduras which Matamoros will lead.

“There is a lot we can share with other countries, but also a lot we gain in those conversations,” says Greager of this type of partnership. “We have strategies for inclusion here, but there are more things to try and to discover. Through creating partnerships with people in other countries, we advance the inclusive education field as a whole.”