Monday, October 24 2016


Hobbies healing for man with Down syndrome

Update: October, 25/2015 - 08:31

Dynamic duo: Mac Dang Mung and his father, Mac Van My, learn about computers together. In the past 27 years, My has been Mung's friend, classmate and teacher who has been by his side always. — Photos

by Luong Huong & Hoang Yen

Playing the electric keyboard, swimming, playing football and understanding basic English, besides graduating from university and earning a brown belt in aikido are skills normal people can master.

Twenty-seven-year-old Mac Dang Mung from HCM City's District 4 has all the above-mentioned skills. He also has Down syndrome, to the surprise of many people.

His achievements are the result of not only his own, but also the tireless efforts of his father, who tried his best to change his son's fate.

Born in 1988, Mung is the first and only son of Mac Van My and Dang Thi An.

"My wife gave birth when we were both in our 40s. We were very happy and decided to name our son Mung (which means happiness in Vietnamese)," My said.

But their happiness was cut short when they were informed that their son had Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes physical and intellectual disabilities.

Carrying their little son, Mung's parents consulted every doctor who was recommended to them, but it seemed hopeless.

"We gave birth to Mung, or gave him life, so we felt greatly responsible for him.

"Mung was very weak when he turned five. He just sat still wherever he was placed, while his head was inclined to one side. He was able to walk by the age of seven and speak his first words by the age of nine," Mung's mother An said. "I had to swallow my tears whenever I fed him."

Fortunately, they met a doctor who advised them to buy an electronic keyboard, and train Mung to play it. It would stimulate the tips of his fingers and then help to develop his brain, the doctor said.

Seeing light at the end of the tunnel, My and his wife followed the advice. Since then, music could be heard coming from their small house every day.

My said he took music lessons at a nearby cathedral and taught Mung himself. All music teachers refused to teach him because they thought that a four-year-old child, who was unable to stand firm on his legs, could not learn to play the keyboard.

Mung's journey towards integrating into society was full of challenges. After he memorised and understood all the musical notes, Mung's father thought of taking him to a music centre, where he could be trained methodically. But once again, they were turned down.

Proud papa: My, 66, cannot hide his happiness while talking about his son's achievements.

However, the music teacher at the centre was very surprised when he heard Mung play the keyboard, and finally accepted his special student.

In order to take care of her son better, An quit her job and became a housewife. She frequently reads fairytales to Mung before he goes to bed, while My is always by his side in his study.

"I always try to give him a diet rich in vegetables and food that is good for the brain and the body. We are not only his parents, but also his friends. Whenever he makes a mistake, we have to analyse it for him gradually, instead of at one go," My said.

When Mung reached school age, his parents decided to let him attend school, despite objections from their relatives. He ultimately finished the ninth grade at the HCM City Charitable Centre for Training and Offering Job for the Handicapped.

After that, Mung's parents decided to get him trained for a job at a training centre in the district.

"I drove him to school and picked him up during the first month only. In the following months, Mung walked home himself, though the centre was located pretty far away from home, because I wanted to train him to be more self-reliant," My said.

Mung industriously worked for a year, earned his A-level certificate in computers, and then pursued further study. He has finished a six-month graphic design course at Van Lang University, and is learning web design at the HCM City University of Science.

The curriculum is pretty heavy, so My also attends classes as an observer along with his son, and to carefully take notes of every lesson so that he can explain it to Mung at home.

"I try to attend classes with him so that I can teach him whatever he does not understand. Sometimes I visit bookshops to learn more about his lessons," My said.

Mung has also joined other extracurricular activities such as courses in aikido (a form of Japanese martial arts), English and soft skills, or playing football so that he can have the best conditions that allow mental development.

"Mung seems very interested in learning and never misses a class, no matter what the weather is like," My said. "Whenever he is tired of learning, I patiently explain to him the benefits if he studies well. Then he changes his mind."

Mung has been gradually accessing wider sources of knowledge to integrate into society with the help of his parents, who have always been by his side for the past 27 years.

Today, Mung is able to take care of not only himself, but also the people around him.

"One day after school, when he saw I was sick, Mung kept asking me where I had got hurt and whether if I was feeling better. One day he even asked me to allow him to wash clothes, but I refused and asked him to learn how to keep things tidy first. He smiled and obediently followed my instruction," An said.

The several medals Mung has won in sports competitions for the handicapped such as a gold medal in basketball or a silver medal in football, and photos of him attending music and martial arts classes are his proud parents' most valued treasures in their small home.

Unconditional love for their son has been the greatest motivation for both My and his wife in teaching him the simplest things in life, and to be by his side always.

The small family has just received a piece of good news that a director has accepted Mung to work in his computer company after he graduates. This is a well-deserved reward for the couple's great efforts over the years.

Mung is also studying hard to win a scholarship to Australia.

Mung says he will try his best to get the best result, so that he has a job and can take care of his parents in the future. — VNS

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