Parents think nothing of driving for 8 hours on a motorbike in Vietnam’s heat, humidity, and traffic on the off-chance that they can meet with one of our professionals for an hour about their child’s hearing loss and language development. They come in droves to our evening parent lectures to increase their understanding of what they can do to help their children who are deaf or hard of hearing. They break out in broad grins of gratitude after receiving hearing aids and counsel from our team. Beyond their participation in our program, its the parents who will ultimately create change and inspire improvements to system so that their children who are deaf or hard of hearing can get the education and services they deserve.
We spent the past week at Thuan An Center and the display of parent support there was no different. We had two evening sessions for parents — one about audiology and one about auditory-verbal practice — and the place was packed on both weeknights. They came with energy, enthusiasm, and good questions for our professionals.
During the day, our audiologists and the audiology training group met with 50 families to conduct hearing tests and fit hearing aids. The parents waited patiently for hours with their children in the outer courtyard, often having come from hours away and taking unpaid time off from work. They came into the soundbooth with tired eyes and anxiety that often melted away once they and their children started engaging with Lauri, Zofia, and Jacque on the hearing test process. Our trio of professionals did a wonderful job offering warm, patient counsel to the parents with the diagnosis and information about the hearing aids they fit on the children.
Our program’s emphasis is on training so that over time, the participants are prepared to do the work in audiology and auditory-verbal deaf education themselves. Our audiology training at Thuan An provided participants with hands-on practice with the equipment and in counseling parents alongside our professionals. Many of the participants are also engaged in our summer training programs, again for continuity and to ensure the sustainablity of our efforts.
During this Mobile Mission, it was challenging at times to adhere to the audiology appointment schedule with families while also making sure we allowed enough time to train the audiology students on the hows and whys of what we were doing. Our audiology team did a great job keeping the larger mission of training in mind. Families may have had to wait a little longer for their appointment, but the emphasis on training will pay out in greater dividends down the road when the families have trained Vietnamese professionals they can go to for assistance.
We only fit hearing aids on children from schools in our Deaf Education Program because the teachers and families at those schools are learning how to help those children make use of the hearing technology through our program. Lea and Judy mentored teachers and therapists in the classroom at Thuan An Center. They stressed the importance of setting goals in key developmental areas for the children and showed them how to do that. Judy and Lea also helped the teachers organize their toys and think about the different activites that these toys could be used to meet the specific goals for the child. It was a busy but very successful week.
I fractured my knee two weeks ago after tripping over a rope strung across a walkway on my morning run here in Vietnam. The bad news was that surgery was required and I was in the hospital for two days this week. I have been getting much tender loving care from Vietnamese and Americans alike. Our team did a wonderful job carrying the flag in my absence and I am grateful to everyone near and far for their support.
We are now in Nha Trang looking forward to spending the next week with the therapists, teachers, technicians, and families here. Things get started tomorrow morning with a welcome ceremony followed by introductory lectures in audiology and auditory-verbal deaf education to all the participants.