Many of the families taking part in the audiology and therapy consults that I blogged about in my last post live 400-800 km away. They are making the long trip to our program here by motorbike or public transportation — often overnight – to spend time with our professionals. It’s really remarkable and a testament to the fortitude of parents to do their best by their children.
While the families are meeting with our audiologists and therapists, their children’s teachers are close by engaged in our teacher training program. It’s a two-pronged effort to help these children from 35 schools and early intervention centers spread across South Vietnam maximize the use of their hearing aids and progress with their spoken language development.
We’re in the middle of the second week of our teacher training program for Level 1 teachers. The 45 first-year participants have been immersed this week in lecture and interactive practicum on topics related to teaming with families, language milestones, literacy and reading, and auditory development strategies.
The Level 1 teachers have also signed up for individual consults with our deaf education and therapy professionals. These sessions offer teachers the opportunity to get advice about lesson plans and curriculum development and new ideas for addressing the needs of specific children they work with. They are also asking questions about our daily lectures here and how to apply the lessons learned to their own classrooms, indicating they are absorbing the information and thinking through the material they are being taught. I enjoy sitting in on these one-hour sessions for the insight they provide into the varied and unique situations and school environments that the teachers face.
In a feel-good moment, one of the teachers shared that her school started an early intervention program this year. Some of her peers who teach kindergarten attended our course last summer. They learned about the value of early intervention and proposed that the school start a program for younger children with hearing loss at their school. Previously, the school had children wait until they were kindergarten-age before they would start to work with them. Now, they are launching an early intervention program and this teacher is one of the first to work in this new program.
Another teacher shared her concerns about consistent access to hearing aids for her students. Her families receive off-brand or used hearing aids donated through international organizations and charities. When the hearing aid breaks, there often isn’t a place to get it repaired or a means for getting a new one. As a result, the child no longer has access to sound.
She said, “It is very hard to deny a child after they have been provided a hearing aid and are learning to listen and talk. When we cannot find a replacement or the family cannot afford one, the child loses all their progress. That is so much harder than not providing a hearing aid to the child in the first place.”
The Global Foundation is working with a few other Vietnam charities on a plan to establish a micro-credit process whereby hearing aids would be provided to low-income families. The families would pay for the hearing aid over time, allowing us to source more hearing aids and sustain the program.