BRITISH SPECIALIST AND THE LOVING JOURNEY SUPPORTING CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
Mrs Marianne when she was a volunteer of VSO (Photo: VSO)
Mrs Marianne and her husbandIn addition to operating the Center, Marianne and Hien also organised various events for families who needed special education support. “I could see a change in attitude,” says Marianne, who says parents’ expectations are now much higher for their children who have disabilities. “There is still a long way to go.” During her placement, Marianne promoted a hands-on approach to teaching and constantly reinforced the virtues of patience. “Marianne was always attentive towards parents, giving them time to share their story and hear about their concerns,” says Hien. “I learnt by her example, it made a deep impression on me.” After their placement ended Marianne and her husband in 2012, Chris stayed on in Vietnam to help Hien open a school for children with special education needs. It was the first school for children with disabilities in Nha Trang, supporting over 100 families. For the first time, local children with special educational needs had a dedicated school. It was life-changing. “It made us happy to know that we were making an impact on these children’s lives,” adds Marianne. The school has since closed due to lack of funds, but several teachers there went on to open their own special educational facilities. “They are thriving,” says Marianne. Everlasting bond Despite the geographical distance, Marianne and Hien still stayed in touch. They kept communicating with each other regularly, exchange conversation about life and work. “Hien was keen to build on her experience, so Chris and I encouraged her to apply for a British Council Chevening scholarship,” says Marianne. Hien applied and was later accepted to study Masters in Autism in Children at Birmingham University in 2017 and graduated with distinction in late 2018. She afterwards headed back to HCMC to work as the manager of a special education program in Saigon Children’s Charity.
Mrs Marianne Simpson and Mrs Do Thi Hien
Meanwhile, Marianne continued supporting projects providing in-service training for teachers and therapists of Saigon Children’s Charity. She described “My present role is mainly at an advisory level and recruiting and organizing professionals from the UK to deliver training in Vietnam”At the same time, the British specialist is also keen on sharing with colleagues her experiences of living and working in Vietnam as well as approaching to effectively support disabled children. “As in many countries, there is a need for more support for children with special educational needs. We need to rejoice in their differences and provide equal opportunities for them to access appropriate education. Having worked in a multi-disciplinary environment where teachers and therapist work together with parents. I have seen the benefits to both the child and their family”, Marianne says. The senior specialist also advises special education teachers to take a more active role in their learning and question ideas. “We as trainers can share our knowledge and skills they need to reflect on their practice and analyze and problem solve. All children are different and learning styles vary, special education teachers and therapist need to look carefully at the individual child and consider their characteristics as well as the particular teaching strategy” she emphasized.
(By Vietnam Times)