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Teachers help autistic children learn through activities

Update: October, 23/2018 - 06:00
Loan with her students. — photo laodong.com.vn
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI – Phúc Tuệ Centre serves as a second home for children with autism, a palce where they can not only find comfort and safety but also learn through activities and classes designed to meet their needs.

Most of the people working there are women who have spent their lives so far welcoming autistic children with smiles and open arms, reported Lao Động (Labour) Newspaper.

At Phúc Tuệ Centre in Hà Nội’s Long Biên District, 20km from the city centre, nearly 20 students reside and study daily. Most of them have severe autism.

The centre’s education style includes teaching texts, computer use, and music combined with personal and group psychological therapies, health recovery massage and medical treatment by doctors.

The students also participate in a vocational training programme.

They came here and are taught according to their abilities, not by age”, teacher Vũ Thi Loan told the paper, explaining that students range in age from 7 to 23.
Loan is one of three teachers who have been working for the centre since it was established nearly 20 years ago.

As she stood in a 40sq.m-classroom full of children, Loan said that many of the students had arrived at the centre when they were very small.

"Many of them were in serious condition”, she said.We could not get in touch with them because they could not speak or did not want to talk with other people. Their learning ability was modest; even some children did not know how to eat food themselves or go to the toilet.”
Loan and her colleagues began by teaching students the most basic tasks, such as how to use hand gestures. Teaching students to respond to teachers’ calls was an undertaking, she recalled.

Initially, Loan was the head of accounting at the centre, but because of the high level of contact with the children, she became emotionally involved.

Then she attended courses on teaching and caring for children with intellectual disability and autism.

So far, she has been working at Phúc Tuệ centre for 18 years.

Currently, her husband is also working here.

"Many students were grown-up and very strong. Most of time, they were very gentle, but when they broke out, we female teachers were not strong enough to control them. So more men were needed to help”, Loan said.

Observing Loan’s work after picking up her at the centre many times, her husband felt empathy for her and compassion for the children. He decided to work with her in the centre.

Nguyễn Thị Diệp, a teacher in charge of teaching handicrafts to children in the center, told the paper: "Here we had four teachers taking care of 20 students. Sometimes we felt exhausted.” 
Teaching the children with autism required patience because the children’s reactions were very slow. If the teachers pushed them too much, they could burst into anger and even slap teachers’ faces, Diệp said.
In some cases, the students chased their teachers in order to beat them, she said.
“But we all understood that the actions were due to their illness, so we just felt sorrowful.”
Sometimes, Diệp, Loan and their colleagues thought about quitting the hard job. But they keep working here because they know the students needed them. 
Teacher Nguyễn Thị Hà, a specialist on teaching children with autism at the centre, said: "Working here requires teachers have good physical and mental health so as to be patient with students”.
Besides, all the teachers had to regularly participate in extra-curricular classes taught by psychologists to improve their skills, Hà said.
The job is difficult but the incomes of teachers are very modest because the school’s fees are so low, said Vũ Thị Minh Hương, the centre’s director.
“The fees of our centre are one-third those of other centres”, Hương told the paper.
If the fees were too high, the low-income families could not afford to send their children to the centre.
At present, the salary of senior teachers was more than VNĐ4 million (US$170) per month, while that of new teachers was only VNĐ2.5 million (US$105) per month, the director said. – VNS

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