The help alliance initiative “Working With Others” does not only help children in Vietnam – teachers also benefit

Special children need special support – and teachers who recognize the needs of children and, together with the parents, look after the children’s welfare. Children like autistic Lam and the near-deaf Hung, and teachers like Tong Tran Thien Thanh and Bui Thi Thanh Thuanh. Both teachers benefit from the seminars and training events of the help alliance project Working With Others in cooperation with the Saigon Children’s Charity in Vietnam.

Tong Tran Thien Thanh is 26 years old and works at the Center for Rehabilitation and Education for children with disabilities in the Vietnamese province Khanh Hoa. Neither he nor his friends would have expected Thanh to become a teacher – especially for children with special needs: “This makes me smile and I consider myself a special teacher for special children. It is most important to me that everything comes from the heart,” says Thanh.

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From a boy in his own world to a chatterbox: Lam’s story

But the job is not easy, and it did not become easier for Thanh when a small boy called Lam came into his care. The boy did not say a word, didn’t respond to his name, and didn’t seem to understand what was said to him. The boy appeared to be alone in his own world, and nothing could get through to him – not even his own mother. At first, Thanh didn’t feel able to help Lam. This changed when he took part in a seminar for teachers on early education of children with autism.

The program was made possible by Working With Others, in cooperation with the long-term help alliance project Saigon Children’s Charity. Thanks to the expertise Thanh received there, he recognized how he could help young Lam and his mother. “In the training, I learned not only about a range of early education techniques, but also that the inclusion of the parents is essential for successful learning,” says Thanh. With the help of the enthusiastic and careful instruction by experienced experts, he learned how to support parents during therapy. He was able to put all his new knowledge directly into practice in teaching Lam and in the cooperation with the boy’s mother, says Thanh.

Thanks to Lam’s new treatment, which was based in particular on intensive communication and a social, diverse environment and special exercises, Lam continued to develop better and better. After two years, Lam was speaking like a normal child – indeed, the boy is like new, and sometimes talks nonstop to his teachers and his mother. “By now, he drives me crazy with his questions about all sorts of things,” says his mother. Lam will begin elementary school next year. Until then, he has time to continue to develop his writing and speaking skills. For Lam’s teacher Thanh, the development of the boy is very moving and an incentive to continue further training.

Working With Others (WWO) was founded in 2010, in cooperation with the Saigon Children’s Charity. The aim is to establish networks for communication, cooperation and the exchange of ideas, and to support organizations, schools and groups in the development of their skills and facilities. WWO offers seminars and training sessions in a range of different areas. As such, the qualification and further training of teacher in the handling of children with autism is included in the diverse program. Another important cornerstone of WWO are sensory integration programs for the hearing impaired and the transfer of knowledge of methods for language development for their parents

Project Location

Ho-Chi-Minh City, Vietnam

Speaking despite deafness: Hung’s story

At first, Hung’s mother did not know that her son was almost completely deaf. It was not noticeable from the outside, and she just thought her son was stubborn and inattentive. Only when Hung was one year old did doctors discover that he was completely deaf in one ear and almost deaf in the other. His family organized a hearing aid and sent him to Hoa Hong School when he was four years old, a school that specialized on supporting children with hearing impairments and developmental delays. Here, Bui Thi Thanh Thuanh is the school principal, who supported Hung and his family.

In 2014, help alliance supported the school, in collaboration with the Working With Others program of the Saigon Children’s Charity, with a project for the therapy of hearing-impaired children. At five schools, help alliance developed a professional network for speech and language training of hearing-impaired children aged between zero and eight years. The aim of the project was to train teachers to learn helpful methods and to promote the exchange between colleagues. Thanks to the program of help alliance, the teachers were provided with important expertise and skills for how to better support the children’s speech and language and to better address the needs of the children.

Thanks to the program, Thuanh was able to offer Hung excellent help and support: “The first thing was to help Hung’s family to accept the difficulties they face due to his condition,” explains Thuanh. Hung’s mother changed her job in order to have more time for Hung’s language development. She was willing to do anything possible for her son and to enable him a nearly normal life. “On the one hand, it made me very happy that she trusted me so much. On the other hand, I was nervous that she put so much hope in us,” says Thuanh.

Although at four years of age, Hung is relatively old for early education, he made quick progress. After 16 months, he was able to talk and read, and is now preparing for elementary school. “We hope that Hung soon gets a good hearing aid to that he can follow the lessons at the integrative elementary school,” says Thuanh.