We are looking forward to the start of the fourth year of our Vietnam Deaf Education program. Things kick off on June 24 with a full slate of summer programs to benefit children with hearing loss.

We start with a one week intensive training workshop at Hanoi National University of Education. Focused on auditory-verbal therapy, the program combines live therapy sessions with families with group discussion and lecture. The Vietnamese therapists will have opportunities to further their skills in settting goals and strategies and developing and executing therapy lesson plans for young children with hearing loss.

We then head South for our fourth annual Summer Training Program at Thuan An Education Center outside of Ho Chi Minh City scheduled to begin July 1. This is a multi-faceted affair that spans the course of a month. 

There are 75 Vietnamese teachers participating in Level 3 and Level 4 Classroom, Therapy, and Early Intervention tracks. Sixteen Vietnamese participants are enrolled in the Audiology Technicians track. We also have 20 mainstream school teachers expected to take part in a short course about how to work with children with hearing loss in the mainstream setting – this is important as more of these children move from special schools to mainstream schools. And, we will have about 30 principals and other administrative leaders who represent the 38 schools enrolled in our Program taking part in our Principals workshop.

The Principals workshop is designed to help support the establishment or expansion of audiology services and early intervention programs in their schools.

One of the Global Foundation’s projects for 2013 is to support the Vietnamese desire to establish regional audiology centers at some of the 38 schools so that families living far away from the city centers can more easily get the support they need for their children who are deaf or hard of hearing. This workshop provides a forum for discussion and feedback to get that initiative started.

Thuy and I have a plethoria of lists and schedules that we share each year to help us keep the various aspects of our Summer Training Program planning on track. There are lists of the Vietnamese participants, lists of the families involved, lists of the children who need hearing tests and hearing aids. There are list of the materials that need translation and another set of lists of the materials that go to the printer for binding into handbooks. We have running lists of resources, interpreter, and accomodation needs. There are schedules outlining each day and each program track’s activities. There are lists outlining the daily meal, accomodations, and transportation needs. It goes on and on and every one of them is important.

Of all the information we exchange, the list I most enjoy receiving from Thuy by far is the roster of the children scheduled to participate in each of our Summer Training Programs and the case history information that comes along with it.  It is insightful to read the observations about the progress these children have made and the areas that the teachers are focusing on in their development. The teachers also sometimes write down some interesting tidbits which helps me to get to know the children better. A favorite ancedote of mine came last year when one of the teachers noted that a particular young child “likes to follow his own bliss”. Now that is a child after my own heart!

Before we started our Summer Training Program in 2010, the teachers in our program rarely, if at all, used any assessments, goal setting, or lesson plans for children with hearing loss. The mindset was “just do the best you can” to help these children learn. One of the key focus areas of our program since its inception has been to offer the teachers tools and the knowledge for how to use these tools to establish goals and help the children progress in their auditory and language development in measurable, specific ways. The teachers have embraced this approach and we are seeing the impact on the outcomes of the children. For example, last week, I learned that 5 children with hearing loss who receive early intervention services from a center enrolled in our program will enter mainstream kindergarten next year. This is the highest number of children transitioning to the mainstream out of this early intervention program in a single year. We have been working with the same teachers and schools for 3 years now and so I expect we’ll see/hear even more examples of positive outcomes as a result of our work moving forward.

Las year, three of our Global Foundation team members worked with the Vietnamese to develop an assessment tool that is specific to the Vietnamese language. The model was introduced during our last Mobile Mission and was well received by the Vietnamese for being relevant to their language and easy to use.  We will be using this assessment across all our educational programs this summer.

During our Summer Training Program, 52 children with hearing loss under the age of 6 will take part in our Classroom, Therapy and Early Intervention tracks.  We also have 54 slots in the clinical component of our Audiology program during which the Vietnamese participants will conduct hearing tests on young children, check hearing aids, and counsel parents. Some of the children participating in the education tracks will be involved in the audiology clinics. We also have hearing aids to fit on children who need them.

Our evening Parent Program will draw about 35 families interested to learn about their child’s hearing and what they can do at home to help their children develop their auditory and spoken language skills. These families are coming from all over South Vietnam and boarding at Thuan An Center so they and their children can take part in the Educational, Audiology, ad Parent Programs. 

In total, over 145 Vietnamese professionals, over 56 families, and well over 80 children are expected to participate across our Hanoi Workshop and our Summer Training Program.  The Global Foundation’s volunteer team is comprised of 15 professionals in audiology, speech pathology, early intervention, and deaf education who have volunteered their time and expertise to this initiative. Most of our professionals have been involved for at least two years. We also have 3 graduate students supporting the effort this summer.

We have always stressed the importance of working across the education and health care and involving everyone in the child’s network for the most successful outcomes. And this is why we offer so many tracks to Vietnamese parents, educators, technicians, and medical staff during our Summer Training Program – all of them are essential for the success of the children.

It is going to be a great summer and we are all looking forward to getting things started!