Monday, September 21, 2015

The Wheels of Positive Change in Motion

The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss is preparing for its next training program to take place in Danang and Dong Nai this Fall.  A few of the Vietnamese teachers and audiology technicians who work in these provinces have already been participating in our training programs in Binh Duong provinces these past several years.

We visited both locations these past few weeks to prepare for the upcoming programs. While in Danang, we visited a school that employs Mai, an audiology technician who is enrolled in the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss audiology training program.  Mai welcomed me to join her in an appointment she had scheduled with a four year old girl with hearing loss and her mother. When the little girl came into the room, she immediately hugged Mai in a warm embrace that only comes in a relationship built on trust and familiarity.  Mai listened intently to the mother’s questions about her daughter’s hearing aids and a previous audiogram.  She confidently addressed the mother’s concerns and even utilized a Familiar Sounds Audiogram as a visual aid to help her understand.

They all then went into the sound booth where Mai did a diligent job testing the child’s hearing and then explaining the results to the mother.  It was really wonderful to observe the effects of the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss audiology training come through in this technician’s service to the family.  Mai is sharing her knowledge with an aspiring audiology technician at her center and is also educating the teachers there about the correlation between audition and language so they can better serve the children with hearing loss in the educational programs.

The school in Dong Nai was established by one of the participants in our Vietnam Program shortly after we launched in 2010.  Sister Thuy has been a dedicated participant in our training programs over the years.  She is a shining example of someone who not only absorbed the knowledge, but then has had the dedication and initiative to apply it.  She developed this school which provides early intervention, kindergarten classroom, and inclusive education services. She has been training her staff on teachings provided by the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss over the past few years.

The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss team created a series of development charts as a tool to help Vietnamese therapists and teachers assess the children they serve. Enlarged representations of these GFCHL development charts are hanging in the hallways of the Dong Nai school for parents to study and understand.

The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss has invested in this school’s audiology equipment and training. Through Sr Thuy, the center is now providing quality audiology care as well as educational services to young children with hearing loss in the province.

We also recently received word that Ho Chi Minh City National University of Education will be offering a course in Auditory-Verbal Therapy as part of its deaf education curriculum for special education students this year.  The course material will based on the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss curriculum.

It is truly inspiring to see the investment of knowledge sharing, training, and resources by the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss take root among the professionals and families in Vietnam.  With their drive and initiative, these Vietnamese are creating positive change that will benefit so many young children with hearing loss in their country both now and in the future.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Audiology Hits the Road in Vietnam

“Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

The highlight of my week was a special all-Vietnamese volunteer audiology "mission” to Vung Tau, Vietnam.  I  was invited to join ten Vietnamese audiology technicians who we have trained in the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss audiology program in this effort.

We have been training these audiology technicians for the past year on how to program hearing aids and verify optimal fit of the hearing aids on children. The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss invested in Audioscan equipment for these technicians.  Verifying fit of hearing aids is standard practice of care in pediatric audiology but not widely administered in Vietnam due to cost of equipment and limited technical knowledge.

The technicians in our audiology program took initiative to start this volunteer effort where they will travel to various schools and centers throughout the South over the next year or so to test the children and check the fit of their hearing aids using their Audioscan machines.

The group invited me to join them on their first “mission” yesterday. They coordinated the whole experience, assigning each other things to do ranging from bringing equipment to coordinating the list of children to arranging the food. We left at 6 am and drove to Vung Tau where we spent a whole day with the children returning back home well into the evening.

In the course of the day, the Vietnamese technicians worked with 11 children and fit hearing aids provided by the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss on three of them. Two of the children were from low-income families who were so grateful to have the hearing aids they otherwise would not be able to afford. The other child who received a pair of hearing aids has a moderate hearing loss. She is without parents and living in an orphanage.  All of these children are supported by an early intervention center in Vung Tau with teachers we have trained through our program which will ensure they can benefit fully from the hearing aids to develop language.

This Vietnamese initiative will continue in the months to come. We are so appreciative of their efforts to promote the teachings of the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss not only in their own work but also to spread the benefits of their new knowledge through volunteer efforts such as these. Well done!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vietnam Summer Training Program Highlights

This summer, we have Audiology, AV Therapy, Early Intervention, and AV Kindergarten Classroom training programs running concurrently under the same roof. The reason why we do all these programs together is to demonstrate to the Vietnamese how these areas work together in integrated fashion. Our goal is to build a network of support across key functions to help young children with hearing loss make use of hearing technology and learn to listen and speak.

One of the audiology technicians commented this week that our program has been the genesis for cross-functional networking and collaboration. After five years of interaction with each other through the Global Foundation's training efforts, the result has been a stronger network of support for young children with hearing loss and families in Vietnam.

Global Foundation audiology professional Julie Verhoff helped the Vietnamese audiology technicians further their skills this summer while also creating opportunities for the participants to guide each other.  For example, five of the most advanced Vietnamese technicians in the program led teams of less experienced technicians each day through the entire test battery, hearing aid process, and counseled parents.  By the end of the program, the Vietnamese technicians collectively were running the audiology clinic with minimal oversight from Julie.  It was a powerful confidence booster for the Vietnamese.
We also added some new tools to their assessment and case management which we will continue to use ongoing.  Time was spent training on new Audioscan machines to verify pediatric hearing aid fittings,.  In low and middle income countries, its often prohibitive to achieve this standard of care due to the cost of the equipment and the training required.  So we are pleased to have been able to provide our Vietnamese participants with the equipment and training to do such verification.

Phonak hearing aids donated by Hear the World Foundation were provided to children in need as part of our audiology clinic. The list of recipients included a 17 month old who will receive ongoing therapy and audiology support to develop her listening and spoken language skills by teachers and technicians in our program.

Some of the Vietnamese audiology technicians announced they are starting an Association to provide volunteer audiology services to schools and early intervention centers throughout the South provinces. The members will comprise those we have trained through our program.

Meanwhile, the teachers and therapists enrolled in the education programs come from schools all over South Vietnam. Global Foundation professionals Pam Yoshihara, Tricia Eckels, Landon Lacey, Emily Lund, Michael Douglas, Sherri Fickenscher, and Margaret Knott are leading the Classroom, AV Therapy, and Early Intervention training efforts.

Children under 6 years of age and their parents are taking part in the practicum for all courses. Among other things, the therapists are learning about language sampling as a useful tool to help assess where a child with hearing loss is in their development.  Vietnam has no official assessments and so our team has been providing a host of informal tools such as this over the years to help them in their work.  Great stuff!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Progress and Inspiration in Vietnam

The 2015 Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss Vietnam Summer Training Program is starting to grow in numbers as we end the first week.
All the Vietnamese teachers taking part in the Kindergarten Classroom Training Program that starts next week arrived Wednesday evening. They came two days early so they could engage together in pre-work and preparations in anticipation of the start of their training program next week.

Some of the Vietnamese in our Auditory Verbal Therapy and Early Intervention Program arrived early as well.  At the end of our last training program in March, these therapists took initiative to start developing a master handbook of Global Foundation training material that we have provided to them over the past five years. This comprehensive handbook will be their guide as they train other professionals and families in Vietnam moving forward.

Approximately 15 therapists took ownership to develop the outline for this master handbook. I received the final draft of their work about a month ago. I shared it with some of our Global Foundation professionals who have been the Vietnamese mentors over the years for their input and feedback. All of us were impressed with the thought and depth that they put into this outline.
This week, these therapists arrived early to the start of their training program next week to finalize this outline and identify content that will go into the master handbook.  Yesterday, a few hours were spent reviewing the Global Foundation team's feedback. They welcomed the input and took diligent notes. Some of the feedback even created additional discussion among the Vietnamese. It has been such an inspiring effort to observe as it unfolds.

Meanwhile, the Audiology Training Program has been going at full-tilt this week with Global Foundation audiologist Julie Verhoff doing a wonderful job leading the effort.

As we near the end of the first week of this program, the training aspects have stepped up quite a bit. Case files have expanded to include some new tools, The Vietnamese audiology technicians have been tasked to take ownership of the children they are seeing, working in teams to conduct full hearing assessments, hearing aid fittings and adjustments, parent counseling, and case review. Some families are here for several hours as part of this process .And it has been very good for everyone involved.
The teachers and therapists who came early have also spent some time observing the Audiology Training Program. It was great to see the Vietnamese teachers, therapists, and audiology technicians share learning about the children and talk among themselves about collaboration opportunities to help optimize the children's performance.

These informal conversations stayed with the teachers and they continued brainstorming as a group later about how they can help resolve some audiological issues the children have faced.

It has always been a key tenant of our program that education and audiology should be working together with parents to assess the children they serve and help them make most use of their hearing technology to learn to listen and talk.  To see the Vietnamese take initiative to carry on such conversations was terrific.  It was also encouraging to see that the Vietnamese therapists working on the master handbook had decided to include an entire section about pediatric audiology. It all bodes well to demonstrate alignment with this collaborative vision.

A great first week all around!  Now we look forward to the rest of the Global Foundation professionals arriving this weekend to kick off the Education training efforts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tenacity Goes a Long Way

Today was the first day of the sixth annual Global Foundation for Children With Hearing Loss Vietnam Summer Training Program. We're starting off with our audiology course for Vietnamese audiology technicians (next week, teachers and therapists get underway with their own GFCHL training programs). Our goal is to be sure that the audiology technicians and the centers that we work with in Vietnam have the equipment and expertise needed to support the needs of young children with hearing loss who are learning to listen and talk.
Audiology is equipment intensive and besides being expensive equipment that is needed, there are also challenges with getting things set up in a low income country. The Vietnamese audiology technicians were impressive today installing new equipment, setting up drives, software, laptops, etc
Over lunch, one of the Vietnamese even figured out how to construct -- by hand-- a cable connector that we needed to get some systems to work.  To think they did all this with English language-based equipment and software while not fluent in English themselves is remarkable.

It makes you people in low-resource areas like Vietnam are usually driven to utilize any training and education they receive and also have the tenacity to find a way to get things done.

In a lighter moment, one of our interpreters told me that some of the participants were feeling sleepy during the afternoon lectures because the A/C in the room felt so cold on their heads.  I asked him to confirm….they are falling asleep because the room is COOL?  When he nodded yes, I explained to him that in the United States, we often keep our conference rooms on the cooler side as not to make people feel sleepy sitting in a warm room.  That kicked off a humorous exchange between us and Vietnamese about warm rooms vs cool rooms and which one puts you to sleep faster.

See?  There’s never a dull moment. :-)

Our clinical practicum starts tomorrow. The Vietnamese audio techs and GFCHL will be testing young children under 6 years of age who are supported by teachers and therapists we have trained in auditory-verbal therapy and early intervention. Children who need them will receive new hearing aids…that’s the best part. We're excited!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Here We Go...Summer #6 in Vietnam!

One of the priorities for the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss in the next year is to enhance audiology services in three targeted provinces. These provinces have teachers and therapists who have been trained by the Global Foundation in auditory-verbal practice and some audiology technicians. Such audiology services would complement services provided in Ho Chi Minh City and would enable families living in the provinces to get more timely care for their children with hearing loss. It would also allow teachers and therapists a way to respond more quickly to changes in a child's hearing than currently is the case.

This summer, the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss will focus on this key goal as we engage in our sixth Summer Training Program. We will help the audiology technicians enrolled in our program continue to develop their pediatric audiology skills. During the practicum, we have a host of children coming in for testing, hearing aid fitting, and verification.

This summer's Audiology program overlaps with the AV Therapy, Early Intervention, and AV Classroom training programs.  Though these Education workshops don’t officially start for a few more weeks, the Vietnamese participants are planning to arrive early.

Those in the Classroom program will engage together in some of the pre-work that has been assigned to them. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese EI/Therapy participants will be working together on the Master Handbook of Global Foundation materials and presentations that they have taken initiative to create. This Master Handbook will be their guide as they train others in Vietnam about the Global Foundation curriculum moving forward.  So, there is lots of motivation and energy flowing around these parts.

Our most advanced-level Vietnamese teachers/therapists and Vietnamese audiology technicians will be enrolled in our program this July. We also have several Vietnamese professionals who have been invited to observe for various reasons but are not at the advanced level to participate.

Children under 6 years old will engage in our Therapy/EI/Classroom practicum sessions every day along with their parents. A host of children will be seen during the Audiology practicum with some getting new hearing aids. These children are all supported by the audiology technicians and teachers enrolled in our Vietnam Program which ensures they will receive the ongoing support they need to develop listening and spoken language.

We also have a Parent Night scheduled that will involve families and other caregivers who will come to learn about how to support their children at home.

Let's get this started!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Presentation at World Health Organization

Executive Director Paige Stringer will join a contingent of hearing health professionals to present at the World Health Organization Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland tomorrow. 

This prestigious annual event features representatives of Ministries of Health from all of WHO’s 194 Member countries who will gather at the United Nations Palais to take part in the process of making decisions about global health issues and priorities. 

Thanks to the tremendous efforts of an international group of hearing health professionals, the issue of hearing loss is gaining some attention on the world stage. 

This year, a report on hearing loss has been requested as part of the Health Assembly. We are very honored to have been included in this incredible opportunity to represent the hearing health cause and the 360 million people who are affected by hearing loss around the world.