Interview with Paige Stringer, Founder & Executive Director of The Global Foundation for Children with Hearing LossAugust 3, 2011
The Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss is an international non-profit organization that offers teacher training and hearing aid programs for deaf children in the developing world.
Global Foundation Founder & Executive Director, Paige Stringer, is currently in Vietnam working to improve education and technology access for children with hearing loss. Her goal is to empower teachers, professionals, and families with knowledge they can then share between one another.
Concerns about consistent access to hearing aids for student have been raised. Once a child is provided a hearing aid and is learning to listen and talk, it is very hard to deny them another if it were ever to break. Unfortunately if the family cannot find a replacement or cannot afford one, the child loses all their progress. This situation is much harder to deal with than not providing a hearing aid to the child in the first place and it is becoming an issue for children in the developing world.
Q & A with Paige Stringer, Founder & Executive Director of The Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss
How has your past experience shaped your role with The Global Foundation?
I started The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss to help children in developing countries have access to the language and education they need to reach their full potential. I was born hard of hearing. I was fortunate to be born in the USA where newborn hearing screening, hearing technology, and professional resources and support mechanisms are in place. I benefited from early intervention services and access to hearing aids that all but ensured my successful assimilation into hearing society. It didn’t seem right to me that children in the developing world wouldn’t have the same opportunities for success in life simply because of where they are born. So, I started this organization to try and help change that.
Please tell us about your successes with your project in Vietnam.
There are over 180,000 young children identified with hearing loss in Vietnam. (Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training)
The country has an inclusive education policy and wishes to integrate these children into mainstream classrooms. However, successful implementation of this policy remains limited because of a shortage of teachers in auditory verbal deaf education and early intervention, limited access to quality hearing technology, and audiology support.
Vietnam only recently began providing education and resources to professionals, teachers, and families who work with or have children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Audiology is in its early stages of development. Speech pathology, early intervention, and auditory-verbal education are still relatively new concepts. The universities do not currently offer Master’s degrees in speech and hearing sciences or deaf education. While the undergraduate curriculums offer well-rounded introductions to special education, teachers who work specifically with children with hearing loss have requested more training to better prepare them for their work.
The Vietnamese government recognizes gaps in their hearing health care and a shortage of teachers and professionals with appropriate expertise to help their children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Global Foundation created a Vietnam Deaf Education Program to help them address this need.
VIETNAM DEAF EDUCATION PROGRAM: The Global Foundation’s approach is one of the few in the world that focuses on professional development in language and auditory support for children AFTER they are identified with hearing loss. Such support is essential for them to benefit from hearing technology, develop spoken language, and otherwise successfully integrate into their hearing communities.
We are collaborating with Thuan An Center for Hearing Impaired Children and Ho Chi Minh City University in South Vietnam on a multi-year Deaf Education Program. The Program’s purpose: empower teachers, medical teams, and families with the expertise to help young children with hearing loss develop listening and spoken language skills.
Our Vietnam Deaf Education Program currently features Teacher Training, Mobile Missions, and Hearing Aid Distribution initiatives. Thirty-five schools for the deaf across 20 Vietnamese provinces are participating in our program. We are establishing relationships with hospital medical teams in Vietnam to offer training about newborn hearing screening protocols and follow-up audiology support.
Our Deaf Education Program will benefit over 900 children with hearing loss. Participants in our program are sharing learning with others, making the benefits exponential — and sustainable.
We launched the Deaf Education Program in July, 2010 with the first of a planned series of one-month Teacher Training workshops. It involved 90 teachers from the 35 participating schools and 25 families who traveled to Thuan An Center to board and engage in the training. A contingent of 12 American speech and hearing professionals representing universities, hospitals, and private practice across the US developed the curriculum in collaboration with the Vietnamese, and traveled to Vietnam to teach the material. They volunteered their time to share their expertise and were not paid to do this work.
The Global Foundation hired a videographer in Vietnam to produce a video about our program:
The second teacher training workshop is scheduled for this summer — June 27 – July 22, 2011. We plan to conduct these summer teacher training workshops on an annual basis at Thuan An Center.
MOBILE MISSION: Feedback provided by the Vietnamese participants during our first summer training workshop indicated a desire for Global Foundation professionals to supplement the annual summer program with on-site school visits during the school year. The goal would be to help teachers implement the auditory-verbal teaching techniques and strategies they are learning into their own classrooms. They also requested audiology training for their staffs which provide audiology services at the schools. In response to this request, we created a Mobile Mission series.
Our first Mobile Mission took place in January, 2011. A team of audiology and deaf education professionals traveled to five of the participating 35 deaf schools in our Vietnam Deaf Education program. They mentored teachers to ensure their continued professional development, provided audiology training, and led an evening parent program. Our team fit 95 hearing aids on children from low-income families who needed them. We also conducted a Saturday lecture about spoken language development and audiology to over 200 medical professionals, teachers, families, and students in Ho Chi Minh City.
Our next Mobile Mission will take place in February, 2012. We plan to expand the scope of the Mobile Mission to include hospitals. ENT doctors and therapists in the hospitals are in need for training about newborn hearing screening, pediatric audiology, and rehabilitative supports.
HEARING AID DISTRIBUTION: We supply hearing aids at the schools in our program to children whose families cannot afford them. Our team’s audiologists fit the hearing aids and provide the training to school staff and families during our Mobile Missions and Teacher Training Programs to ensure that the children have the appropriate supports.
EVALUATION AND RESULTS: The Global Foundation closely monitors its Deaf Education Program to respond to areas of opportunity and ensure the Vietnamese objectives are being met. We conduct pre and post workshop tests and qualitative surveys. We have teamed with speech and hearing professors at Utah State University and the University of Washington to establish assessments of our training efforts on both teachers and the children they serve.
Explain to us the benefit that deployment of simple technologies – such as hearing aids – can have on a child’s development.
Language is fundamental to quality of life. Our ability to communicate thoughts, express ideas, and share information is critical to our own well-being and to our relationships with other people and the world around us.
All children develop their capacity for language in the first six years of life. Since a child must hear sound in order to develop spoken language, it is essential that children with hearing loss are identified early and fit with hearing technology. They must also have access to expert teachers and professionals in speech and hearing sciences who can foster their auditory and language development. With early identification, hearing technology, and rehabilitation support, many children with hearing loss CAN learn to listen and talk. They can attend regular schools alongside hearing peers which in turn can lead to broader education and employment opportunities. They can assimilate into their hearing communities as contributing members of society.
What are some challenges you have faced with distribution of hearing aid technology in Vietnam?
The greatest challenge we face is to ensure the children have access to professionals who have the expertise to help these children after they are fitted with hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not like glasses where you put them on and can suddenly see better.
Professionals need to help these children’s brains process the sounds that they are now hearing so they can begin to develop listening skills and spoken language. We help address the shortage of expertise in audiology, speech therapy, and early intervention with our Deaf Education Program.
How will the Global Foundation for Children benefit by participating in Invent for Humanity?
Invent for Humanity gives us a platform to share our message and encourage participation in our efforts to help children who are deaf or hard of hearing in developing countries.
The Global Foundation has experienced increasing demand for its training programs and expertise, both in Vietnam and in other developing countries. Invent for Humanity offers us a way to reach out to new networks and request partnership and support as we continue to grow and make a lasting impact. Together with its partners, The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss can raise awareness of the causes and the impact of infant and childhood hearing loss. We can improve early intervention efforts and provide the education, technology resources, and professional support that children with hearing loss need to live fulfilled lives in our hearing world.
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