US Supports Vietnam Strengthen Rehabilitation Services for Children with Disabilities

USAID joined local officials, partners and beneficiaries in celebrating the completion of a six-year project that supports early detection and intervention for children with special education needs, promoting inclusion and creating greater opportunities for them in three southern provinces of Vietnam.

At the closing workshop. Source: VietHealth
At the closing workshop. Source: VietHealth

The United States Mission to Vietnam, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), on December 8 marked the end of a project that has made significant improvements in early childhood disability detection and support in three southern provinces.

The accomplishments of the six-year effort, under USAID’s Disabilities Integration of Services and Therapies Network for Capacity and Treatment (DISTINCT) project, were highlighted at a ceremony in Dong Xoai attended by representatives of Vietnam’s Ministry of Health and National Committee for Persons with Disabilities, national agencies and ministries, project implementing partners VietHealth and the Medical Committee Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV), and other key partners and stakeholders.

For children under 6 years old, early disability detection and support—including medical care, rehabilitation and special education—reduces the severity of their disabilities in the long run and also overall severe disability prevalence in the population.

However, prior to the 2015 start of USAID’s project, Tay Ninh, Binh Phuoc and Dong Nai provinces did not have a system in place to provide such services, leaving caregivers to seek what care and support they could at provincial hospitals.

USAID has helped the three provinces to begin providing these crucial early childhood health services, including in schools and health centers, making them more accessible.

The project also supported the creation of 18 therapy and resource rooms in the community. USAID directly supported nearly 5,000 children identified for follow-up through the newly-established provincial screening system by providing them with rehabilitation services such as physical and speech therapies; school- and home-based special education; and assistive devices.

14 students of Vietnam's first ever Master’s of Rehabilitation with specialization in Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) program have been graduated. Source: MCNV
14 students of Vietnam’s first ever Master’s of Rehabilitation with specialization in Speech and Language Therapy program have been graduated. Source: MCNV

The project also expanded Vietnam’s rehabilitation workforce by helping create Vietnam’s first Bachelor’s and Master’s of Rehabilitation degree programs, with a specialization in speech and language therapy, from which the first students graduated this year.

USAID also trained more than 3,000 early childhood educators and caregivers in special education, and more than 2,000 health care workers and caregivers on physical and speech therapy.

The project also provides rehabilitation equipment, technical support and conducts rehabilitation assessment and interventions including physical therapy, speech therapy for 17 people with disabilities and special education interventions for 14 people with disabilities at the Center Caring and Rehabilitation for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin in Tay Ninh.

By the end of 2022, the project has coordinated with the Department of Education and Training of Tay Ninh province to build and put into operation an intervention room to support integration at five preschools and Tay Ninh Provincial School for Disabilities; cooperated with the Health Departments to develop and deploy multi-specialty rehabilitation services with the operation of nine speech therapy rooms and three resource rooms in Tay Ninh and Dong Nai and Binh Phuoc.

US Supports Strengthening Rehabilitation Services for Children with Disabilities
By making therapy services available for children in need of interventions, USAID is helping improve the quality of life for children, including those with disabilities, in three project provinces. Source: USAID

Under the authorization of Binh Phuoc Provincial People’s Committee, Mai Xuan Tuan, deputy director of Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, the focal point for implementing the project in the province, stressing the importance of the project which has been bringing about significant effects in contributing to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. Binh Phuoc province acknowledges and thanks USAID and VietHealth for their support with spirit and responsibility towards people andchildren with disabilities in the province.

In Binh Phuoc, by June 30, 2022, the whole province has 886 children receiving rehabilitation intervention, special education intervention; 27 health workers have improved their physical therapy capacity; 262 health workers, preschool teachers, laborers – invalids and social workers trained on screening for early detection for children with special educational needs.

Under professional supervision and assistance of experts and teachers, parents and caregivers of children with disabilities are able to engage more actively and provide more intervention care.

Hannah Nguyen