I sat in on our early intervention training program this morning with a darling 2-year-old Vietnamese girl. Her teacher used a book about animals to draw the child out, asking general questions about the pictures on each page and letting her take the lead in the conversation. The little girl was animated in her responses. It was a wonderful demonstration of the conversational approach that our team is trying to help the Vietnamese teachers achieve. Currently they tend to be more rote with the children in both therapy and classroom activities – asking closed-end questions or to repeat after the teacher – as opposed to a more seamless integration of learning into everyday life activities.
As one of our professionals explained, children with hearing loss typically are not intuitive with the ebb and flow of conversation. And so we have to teach them. By doing play activities that engage children in regular conversation, they learn creative thinking and how to build stories. That lends to reading appreciation which in turn helps foster vocabulary and richer language development.
Besides, when you are 3 years old, wouldn’t you rather pretend play to be living in a castle and talk about your imaginary life there than be reading through flashcards? Yes, I think so!
Our early intervention program spends their afternoons in planning sessions for 12 Vietnamese children with hearing loss under age 3 who are enrolled in this program. The Vietnamese teachers set goals and strategies to foster auditory and language development for each child, and then design activities to achieve those goals. Each morning, the children arrive one by one with their parents to the second floor of Thuan An Center to engage in their scheduled individualized therapy sessions. Their Vietnamese teachers execute plans laid while Kim Hamren and Kathryn Wilson observe and provide coaching support.
The Vietnamese participants then regroup for evaluation. They self-assess and listen to insights from Kim, Kathryn, and their peers who sat in their sessions about what worked, what might have been done differently, etc. They then start planning for the next scheduled sessions using assessment forms and case history information about each child that we have previously collected.
It has been a real treat to watch the progression of this program. The teachers are so rapt in their attention, taking diligent notes in observation of their peers and are absorbing the feedback provided by Kim and Kathryn like cacti hold water. It has not taken long to start to see some changes in their teaching approach and that has inspired all of us.