THE PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION
(Period: from January 2014 to May 2014)
In Binh Thuan province in general and Duc Linh district in particular, many children with disabilities and special needs have the prospect of a poor future. They either receive no education, or leave school at an early age resulting in bleak future prospects. With limited life or social skills, no ability to read or write, they are destined to remain in a life of poverty with no independence.
Under funding from Help Alliance & Saigon Children’s Charity, since January, 2014 Thien Chi centre has developed and implemented a Home Learning Box program for children with Special Education Needs (SEN) who, due to circumstances beyond their control, are housebound, or are unable to cope in a normal school environment.
The program aims to identify and support more children with Special Education Needs (SEN), provide home tutors to plan and monitor individual support, deliver life and social skills programs promoting the benefits of education and independence, and assist an under-privileged and neglected group of our community to reach their full potential.
Each Home Learning Box contains brightly coloured items, games, activities and worksheets selectively chosen to interest and stimulate the child intellectually while also providing an opportunity for Thien Chi’s home tutors to teach the child’s family new ideas for caring and teaching their child. Each Home Learning Box will be created with each child’s particular needs in mind.
II. Situation of project implementation
2.1. Achieved results toward objectives
- - In January the health and education team carried out assessing children with SEN using our funtional assessment form. A commitment to ensure parents’ co-operation in the Home learning box program was signed between Thien Chi and the families.
- - In March, Thien Chi Duc Linh, purchased teaching materials for children with SEN at home and supported each child depending on their individual special needs. Since April, the tutors have assigned weekly worksheets for the children based on a suitable teaching plan and using appropriate learning strategies.
- - Currently, there are 30 children with SEN being followed up or supported by a Home Learning Box (HLB) at Sung Nhon, Mepu, Vo Xu, Duc Tin, Duc Hanh and Tra Tan communes once a week by Thien Chi tutors.
- - After a few months, according to the tutors’ assessment, the children have developed positively.
- - The children demonstrated learning consciousness and some social and life skills such as: neatness, cleanliness, confidence in communication and expressing themselves and being polite to visitors.
- - Some children who started with limited knowledge are now familiar with some basic concepts such as: addition, subtraction, colour, shape. They can count by rote and do simple calculations.
- - In Vietnamese, these children began to get acquainted with words and simple sentences through using whole words. Many children are encouraged to write their full name by themselves, recognise the letters of the alphabet and decode words.
- - The most significant progress has been in the children’s increased attention and belief of parents in the program. Gradually, the parents have actively co-operated with Thien Chi’s staff delivering the program to participate in the child support process.
In general, all current activities of the program have been implemented towards the required objectives. Because of the long distance between communes where the program is being implemented in the district, the parents workshop was divided into 2 groups of parents (group 1: Mepu, Sung Nhon and Vo xu communes, group 2: Tra Tan, Duc Tin, Duc Hanh communes). However, the number of parents of the group 1 participating in a training workshop did not reach the expected target of 30 (just 22 parents participated in the training) because most poor parents were busy earning money. The team will continue to organise workshops for the remaining group and the parents (belong to group 1) who didn’t participate at a date to be fixed .
III. Advantages and disadvantages
- - The staff delivering the program have gained experience inassisting children with SEN. They are better able to identify needs and support children who meet the criteria for the program.
- - The staff delivering the program are very enthusiastic and have a good relationship with the children and their families.
- - The Home Learning Box program has created good opportunities for the staff to understand the situation of the children’s families and are in a better position to observe and assess the child’s progress, detect changes and make suitable adjustments to the learning program.
- - The program receives good co-operation from families in learning and playing with the child at home.
- - The children demonstrated interest in the worksheets and teaching methods of the Home Learning Box program. They have participated in the learning actively and effectively
- - Most of the children come from disadvantaged families whose parents are busy tending rice, doing field work, or working as casual workers. Some parents are really reluctant to attend learning sessions with the child and the tutor, or they don’t have much time to work with their child at home. Moreover, some parents are illiterate, so they have difficulty in following up on our teaching strategies.
- - Thien Chi staff have little experience in special education, so their ability to work with some children with more severe special needs such as Down syndrome, Autism or behaviour disorders is limited.
- - It takes time traveling to the children’s houses. Most of their houses are located at remote areas. Consequently, the time spent working with the children is more than initially planned.
- - At least 2 staff (one male and one female) support one child together to prevent the risk of sexual abuse of the children, especially young girls. However, this issue wasn’t anticipated in the project proposal. As a result, when the project was implemented, in reality, we needed more human resources and the budget was also doubled.
- - We also have lots of difficulty with maintenance of learning material’s at the children’s home. For example, pens and colour boxes that the tutors left for the children to practice skills at home and were asked to protect carefully, were usually lost.
IV. Lessons learnt
- - Working with children in general and children with disabilities in particular, required both specialistknowledge, skill and creative thinking. Understanding and treating the child with respect is also required. Children are not forced but enough firmness is used so children know the rules.
- - It was more effective to teach the children with SEN with concrete materials that they can see and touch. In addition to academic knowledge, it was very important and necessary for the children with SEN to be taught social and life skills. It took time to change and establish a more suitable behaviour.
- - As well as supporting the children with SEN with a Home Learning Box, we were also interested in their health and family situation. For example, some children from poor households were sick and Thien Chi supported them with medical diagnoses and treatment.
V. Conclusions and recommendations
The Home Learning Box program meets the requirements and expectations of parents of children with SEN. It builds the parents’ belief in better chances for their children. It also helps the children to more confidently integrate into their community.
In order to have a long term impact, the team recommends the following:
- - Create conditions for children with SEN to have opportunities to interact with each other through some activities such as picnics, musical performance so they can express themselves and be more confident in integrating into their community.
- - In addition, to increase sustainability of the program, it will be necessary to train local people to teach local children.
- - Two existing staff have been assigned to deliver the project. However, two more staff are needed to meet the actual requirements of effective implementation of the program. Therefore, the need is to raise additional funds for their salary and allowances of transport leading to our suggestion of an additional budget for two new home tutors. (Please see the worksheet “balance budget” and “additional budget” files attached in detail). While waiting the approval of SCC funding, we’d like to express our deep gratitude to your interest in our project.
VII. Plans for next Steps
Continue following up and supporting children with SEN in order to meet the next 6 months objectives
- - Organise workshops for parents and staff delivering the program with topics: teaching strategies in maths, Vietnamese language (oral and written) and communication and self – help skills
- - Assessment of project implementation during the final 6 months
Bình Thuận, 26 June 2014
Reporter: Vũ Thị Ánh – Vice Director cum Fundraiser
Organization: Thiện Chí centre for community support and development