We’re two months away from the first day of our third summer training program in Vietnam.  Our volunteer team of 18 speech and hearing and deaf education professionals have brought such creativity, commitment, and synergy to the process over past year to design what will be another stellar program.  They have worked weekends, nights, and early mornings individually, in teams, and on conference calls to deliver on task and on deadline. Our team is really an amazing, cohesive group of individuals. In fact, two members who have participated since 2010 won’t be able to travel to Vietnam this summer due to other commitments, and yet, they are still a part of it all — offering their time and leadership to play instrumental roles in helping us formulate our program.

Our Vietnam summer training program has evolved and grown significantly since it launched in 2010. What started as an initiative for 90 teachers and therapists and 50 families has since grown to include an intensive Audiology track, hearing aid provision to children from low-income families, and new elements such as webinars, video analysis, and individual consultations.  Hearing aid fitters, educational audiologists, and medical teams from two hospitals have joined the roster of participants. The number of participating schools for the deaf and early intervention centers has grown from 35 to 38 and spans across 20 provinces in Vietnam.

This year, we will grow the list of participants yet again to include teachers from mainstream schools who have children with hearing loss enrolled. When we first proposed the idea for a sub-workshop series for mainstream teachers as a way to ensure that these children are successfully integrated in learning environments with normal hearing peers, 40 kindergartens and 20 primary schools were interested to attend. We’ve since streamlined that to about 20 participants due to capacity and resource issues, but it certainly points to an area of need that we will look to support more fully in the future.

Though the program has expanded, our purpose remains the same. We are collaborating with the Vietnamese to empower their families, teachers, medical teams, and other professionals with the expertise to help young children with hearing loss make use of hearing technology to develop listening and spoken language. Our integrated program spans across audiology, speech pathology, early intervention, and auditory-verbal deaf education.  Those enrolled in our core Teacher Training Program and Audiology Program progress through a multi-year curriculum. Because we are working with the same group over time, we can track progress and their growth.  Further, we encourage the participants to train each other so that our efforts are sustainable.

The teacher training track of our multi-faceted 2012 summer program comprises of Level 2 and Level 3 curricula.  Our team has designed the Level 3 course to be a more hands-on experience than the first two levels. We want to ensure that the participants are comfortable in their learning to be able to apply fully into their home schools and centers. Thuy, the director of Thuan An Center, our Vietnam host, used the analogy of driver’s education to explain: 
“The experts are teaching the participants to drive a car.
They now know how to turn it on, how to start, how to brake, how to turn on the lights, etc… .
I give them a car. They get into the car, start the car and drive out of my center and hit the fence of the opposite block!
They need to know how fast it should go, when they should slow down to turn right, etc

We should be in the car with them to drive to hotel, back to the center, to the hotel, back to the center .. . . After several times back and forth, then they will be ready to do it themselves….”

To this end, our Level 3 curriculum will feature a Classroom/Therapy track and an Early Intervention track. The Classroom/Therapy track will comprise a stimulated summer school format with about 30 children with hearing loss. The participants will learn to assess the children, set goals and strategies, and develop lesson plans. They will then apply those plans each day and receive feedback from our team and their peers.  Parents will join the Therapy pull-out sessions to learn how they can help their children. Similarly, the Early Intervention track will include 12 families that will take part in stimulated individualized sessions with therapists who have devised plans and goals for the children.

Staying true to our integrated approach, participants in the Audiology Program are slated time to observe these classroom and early intervention sessions to help broaden their understanding of how audiology, therapy, and parent support should be closely aligned to best benefit the child.

The logistics of running the Level 3 program will not be for the faint of heart, to be sure. I can already see the twinkle in Thuy’s eyes when we meet in a few weeks in Vietnam to discuss more fully the implementation of this program. She is always up for a challenge.  It will take a great deal of good communication (through two different languages to boot) and organized coordination of all the children, families, participants, and professionals.  With the seasoned interpreters and talented team that we have, I have no doubt that we’ll rise to the occasion. This is one of those special efforts where everyone involved has passion and shared commitment to the goal at hand.