With all that has transpired, it is really hard to believe that the program is just one week old. It has been so fun watching our team of lecturers get into the groove over the course of the week, nervous jitters subsiding and creativity and relaxed humor settling firmly in their place.

The quality of the teaching has been exceptional. The teachers and parents are really responding to our team’s efforts as proven by their feedback to Thuy. For instance, the Saigon Children’s Charity is conducting a survey and focus group to assess the needs of deaf schools in the HCMC area. Hahn of the HCMC Deaf Association asked to postpone her meeting with the SCC to do this work because she was “too busy with the workshop and didn’t want to miss anything.”

Parents who are engaged in the teacher program are reluctant to leave the classrooms for the individual family consultations. When Thuy pointed out to one parent that “it was just an hour consult”, the parent looked in the course handbook and exclaimed “oh, but that is right during the most important session of all. I can’t miss that.”

One woman came from far away to be here. Her husband misses her (and her cooking…) and wants her to return home. She told him a firm No and that it is important that she be here. You go girl.

The teachers are all passionate to learn – they arrive early, sustain rapt attention through the day. I’ve observed that during the break times, the learning continues as the teachers ask our professionals for more information and follow-up questions about the covered material. I am really grateful to our interpreters for making themselves available during these impromptu question and answer sessions. I owe them a caseload of throat lozenges!

Parents are the same everywhere – whether in Vietnam or otherwise. They want the best for their children and are anxious to learn how to help them. The team is doing a wonderful job explaining language and speech development to parents. The parents aren’t all aware that they must be patient..that there are milestones to language development that their child needs to master before they are listening and speaking full sentences. Maura explained it well. Just as no one goes out and successfully races a marathon without going through a training process first, language doesn’t happen overnight.

Our team has also been coaching parents about the importance of play and how to use play as opportunities to develop language. Children learn about themselves and the larger world through play. This appears to be a new concept for parents here who seem used to prompting their children in what to say and how to do things “the right way” during play activities.

The parents consistently ask if and when their children will develop spoken language, but there are fundamentals that need to be confirmed first – is the child getting access to sound? Is the hearing aid matching the audiogram? That sort of thing. Speech sounds fall within a certain frequency range – a range that must be heard to develop spoken language.

The fact there are no trained audiologists in Vietnam has created gaps in access to hearing testing, services, hearing technology, information, and awareness. ENT hospitals need more training and expertise about hearing aids. The audiograms we’ve seen don’t always seem to reflect a child’s performance in consultations. The teachers and parents tell us that hearing tests are notorious for inaccuracies and hearing aids are not always properly fitted by distributors and dealers. Regular care and ongoing maintenance checks are rare. We need to ensure these children are getting proper and continued access to sound and support systems, even those who live out in the countryside at great distances from the city centers.

With such a broad swath of South Vietnam represented at our workshop, we are gathering great information that will be useful as the Global Foundation assesses priorities and continues to explore ways to help eradicate some of the challenges.

We celebrated a successful week with a team dinner on the riverfront. Our team is now headed into a weekend of well-deserved fun with plans ranging from a trek to the Mekong Delta, a Vietnamese cooking class, and exploration of Ho Chi Minh City highlights.