Eighteen-year-old Bao suffers from Down syndrome since a young age. Even though he spent years studying in a local special class for handicapped children, he has numerous difficulties in speaking.
At the class, he learns how to draw, make souvenirs from paper, prepare for meals, and go to the market, in addition to cleaning the house and other simple things. He has made progress day after day.
“Bao has changed a lot since he first came here. At the beginning he was very shy. Now he has become more talkative. Though he cannot pronounce clearly, I am happy that he is now more ready to speak,” his mother Hiep said.
“I could not hold back my tears, when he asked me for the first time in his life to let him help me clean the house. Now when he wakes up every morning, he knows how to brush his teeth, wash his face, and do morning exercises. Earlier, I had never thought that my son could do those things himself,” she said.
The class was founded in September 2015 at the city’s Social Activities Centre and opened to children suffering from autism and Down syndrome. Here, children such as Bao can learn basic life skills, such as communication skills, or how to protect themselves from attacks by strangers.
They learn to paint, do embroidery, play music, and make paper flowers and postcards. Watching the colourful and beautiful objects, not many people can believe that they are made by handicapped children.
In the afternoon, the teachers ask them to go to the market and prepare lunch. The teachers stay close to them the whole day and guide them.
“When the class was first started, many people, even us, did not believe that the children could do these things so quickly. But with time, we proved that they could do it,” Truong Thi Nhu Hoa, the centre’s director, said.
“It proves that handicapped children can live independently if they are offered opportunities to develop themselves. This class helps them to integrate better into society. We plan to expand the models of these classes to other regions of the city and regions,” she said.
Four women who work at the centre are not only teachers to the children but have also become their second mothers. The children call them “mum” when they come to class.
Truong Tran Nhu Ngoc said she experienced a lot of difficulties when she first worked with the children.
On one occasion, when the class was preparing for the launch, a 13-year-old girl named Bao Ngan, was playing alone in the class but suddenly screamed that she had not taken her medicine.
“At that time, I was very worried and rushed to look for her medicine. But one of my colleagues took her out for a walk near the class, and she stopped crying. Then, my colleague explained to me that the girl did not need to take medicine but just sought the attention of people around her,” Ngoc said.
“Only then did I understand that the children love sweet words, and love the care they receive from other people,” she said.
Adolescents in the class can learn about reproductive health, receive advice about their personal life, and learn about life skills to protect themselves from attacks by strangers.
“Some students here are around 16 years old. We spend some time in class to listen to their confessions, their intimate stories, and give our advice on their friends’ relationships on the social networks,” she added.
Teachers here also invite experts to give advice to parents on how to raise their children, so that they can understand their children better.
“Watching those children grow up and become more and more independent every passing day has brought us a lot of happiness. I hope to see more and more handicapped children well integrated in life, like the cactus flower which can grow from difficult conditions to flourish,” Thoa said.