We’re spending the week at Thuan An Center, an early intervention and school program for children with hearing loss located in a semi-rural community outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Thuan An Center is the Global Foundation’s partner in Vietnam and the host of our annual summer training courses in audiology and auditory-verbal practice.

The goals of this week are two-fold. We’re furthering the auditory-verbal teaching skills of the Thuan An kindergarten teachers who have been engaged in our summer training program. We also are training technicians and educational audiologists and checking the hearing and hearing technology of children we are following in our audiology program. We want to be sure these children are hearing as well as possible so they can continue to develop skills in – and learn through  – listening and spoken language.  

And because audiology and education cannot act in isolation to benefit children with hearing loss, we continue to promote more collaboration between the technicians and education staffs. This is so fundamental to the Global Foundation’s Deaf Education Program and why we have an integrated model across therapy, education, and audiology. We cannot help children with hearing loss learn to listen and talk well without good communication and synergy between those who manage the children’s hearing and those who work with them on their language development, including the parents.

There are 3 classroom teachers and 3 therapists in Thuan An’s kindergarten program and 35 children enrolled who are all between 5 and 6 years of age. They have hearing aids, cochlear implants, and FM systems to help them hear. The teachers are developing and carrying out strategies to help the children make use of hearing technology and further their oral communication skills while in the process of learning.

This week, Ann Baumann is observing classroom activities in the morning and providing feedback for the teachers via video and discussion each afternoon. We’re focused on assessment and lesson planning. Ann is also helping the teachers continue to move away from a focus on rote teaching to a more experiential model. One of the priorities is to help teachers incorporate listening and language goals seamlessly into their classroom activities so that these skills are developed throughout the day rather than just during a structured period of time. We listen and talk as a part of our daily lives and so we want to create the same experience for children with hearing loss as they go through their educational process.

Jane Madell and Elizabeth Preston are working alongside the Vietnamese audiology program participants who are checking the hearing and hearing technology of children enrolled in our Deaf Education Program. Most are from Thuan An Center but there are others from outlying areas as well.

For a twist on things, the town turned off the power grid today to make some street repairs. That meant no electricity (or air conditioning) was available- which was a problem for audiology.  Fortunately, we  were able to secure a generator to power the audiology equipment and we were back in business in time to test 12 children today (even if our team was left a bit warm for comfort).

We have followed the progress of many of these children over time through our program and through communication with the Vietnamese professionals. All of the audiology participants this week have engaged in our past audiology training programs. We are ensuring their continued professional development in pediatric audiology and effective case management of the children.

In addition, we are checking the hearing and hearing aids of children involved in a collaboration coalition pilot project. The Vietnamese started this coalition after our 2012 summer program. The objective is to set protocols and processes for serving young children with hearing loss and their families across hospitals, early intervention centers, audiology clinics, and the schools. The coalition has identified a group of 40 children around which to build a support system. Once the structure is in place, the goal is to expand the model to other parts of Vietnam so that children with hearing loss and their families have the network of support they need to be successful.

We’re seeing progress made by participants in both programs and the positive impact that such progress is having on the children. We’ll take the observations from this week, gather feedback from the participants, and incorporate it all into our plans for our fourth year summer program this July 2013.