A year ago, the Kianh Foundation in Vietnam benefitted from grant funding for the salary of the Lead Teacher of the Big Bears class at Dien Ban Day Centre. The centre provides education to children with disabilities and special educational needs. This report comes during a covid lockdown in Vietnam, and Lead Teacher Ms Thuy has been having to coach her students (and, more so, their families) through online learning.
“Homeschooling” for children with special educational needs
After faring much better than most of the rest of the world with Covid throughout 2020, Vietnam has been hit hard by the pandemic in 2021. This resulted in further lockdowns for the Kianh Foundation’s Dien Ban Day Centre . No one was allowed at the school during the periods 29 April – 1st June, and then again from 27 July until now.
Fortunately during these lockdowns, due to the experience gained from the lockdowns of last year, the teaching and therapy staff were much better prepared as to what needed to be done to make sure that the students not only maintained, but continued to develop, during this time. Online sessions have been held by the staff throughout the lockdown periods. This has sometimes been working with the children directly (depending upon their capacity). For others, this has meant working with their parents, supporting them to work with their child. This has been necessary in cases where the children were very young or did not have the cognitive or attentive capacity to engage in online learning.
Ms Thuy moves lessons online
Ms Thuy has continued her role as the lead teacher for the Big Bears’ Class – a class for older children with cognitive disabilities – during this period. Lockdown does create more work for Thuy, as the online teaching (in Thuy’s class, it is mainly family training) mainly falls to her, with some support from the assistant teacher in her class. While teaching assistants can work ably in a class situation with the students, it does take some expertise to guide families to work with their children, and to troubleshoot the challenges they may encounter. This is why Thuy has to carry the load in these situations. With the parents and sometimes extended family of 18 students to work with, this can be a big job!
New community outreach for families on waiting list
Thuy’s workload was also significantly increased by the decision of the school to embark upon a community project to train the families of some of the children on our substantial waiting list. This initial phase of the project involved 24 children with special needs in the community. The families were divided between Thuy and her fellow lead teachers from our 4 other classrooms.
Thuy took on the case load of 5 of these children, and throughout this period, conducted home visits (when possible during the pandemic), and developed teaching plans for the children and training plans for the parents. She prepared teaching materials for the parents to use at home, such as laminated pictures and symbols backed with velcro and designed areas around the home to place to icons and images suitable for each young family. She borrowed appropriate toys from the school to take to the child’s home, changing them month or weekly, depending on each child, and regularly communicated with parents through home visits (when possible), phone calls and Facebook Messenger.
Thuy reported that most of the parents she worked with on this new community project began to be more self-aware in collaborating both with her and with their children at home. They paid more attention to their children than they had before participating in the project (when they had really been at a loss as to what to do with them) and understood the importance of their role in their child’s development. Some of the parents were even able to go beyond Thuy’s specific guidance and created some activities of their own that still ensured the children’s goals.
Thuy’s students are thriving, despite the pandemic
Children in Thuy’s classes have spend some of the past 12 months in lockdown, and some at school. In both environments, Ms Thuy has connected with the children and helped them to make impressive progress. Here are three children in the Big Bear’s class:
Hanh is a 17-year-old girl with Down Syndrome. She has been at our school since she was 8 years old, and used to be a very quiet and shy girl. She has blossomed over the years she has spent with us, and is a kind and capable teenager who can now do many practical things to support her teachers, her younger classmates and her family at home. Hanh loves to dance and often leads the morning dance sessions for the whole school and teaches the other students new routines. She says she wants to be a dance teacher at our school when she graduates.
Thao is 17 years old and has Down Syndrome. She comes from a very poor family who were struck by tragedy 3 years ago when the only son of the family was killed in a road accident. Thao is a very quietly capable young woman who stays out of the limelight but can do many things when called upon to do so. She sometimes can lead a lesson in her class on money, which she is very adept with. She can do many household chores and relishes being able to help her family with this. Thao has one more year at our school before she graduates, but her uncle has a coffee shop and it is planned that Thao, with all her practical skills and her understanding of money, will be able to work there.
Elio is 10 years old and is Autistic. He has been in the Kianh Foundation programme at Dien Ban for 3 years. Elio’s verbal communication has greatly developed over that time and he can express himself simply in the areas that he is most interested in. He has also learned to read and is an avid reader at home. Elio’s mother is a single parent and she is delighted at her son’s progress in Thuy’s class.