USAID Disabilities Family Training Program Provides Skills, Support, and Hope

Speeches Shim

Friday, October 9, 2020
Father and son walk together.
USAID I-Thrive

Thien Nhan is an eight year-old boy with autism from Lang Co, Thua Thien Hue province.  His autism has made it difficult for him to control his behavior, often resorting to tantrums and scratching.  His parents, Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Phuong, have struggled to help him on their own and their village doesn’t have any school support or intervention centers for autistic children.  At great expense they enrolled him in the closest intervention facility, located 70km away in Hue, but Nhan’s disruptive behavior continued.  Sometimes his behavior was so challenging that the neighbors could hear and his parents worried about misperceptions. They kept searching for help and ideas, and through a Facebook group for parents with autistic children, Mr. Nguyen found out about USAID’s I-Thrive project. The I-Thrive organization provides training and coaching for parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism. Excited and hopeful, Mr. Nguyen enrolled.  A therapist from I-Thrive visited the family at their home in Lang Co, but it did not start out well. Ashamed of their son’s behavior, the parents hesitated to share their experiences, and their son again lost control and injured the therapist and broke her glasses. Despite this, the therapist was able to guide the parents through some calming techniques to use with their son, and this first visit showed promise.  Mr. Nguyen began to attend I-Thrive group training sessions and soon learned to apply additional techniques and an intervention plan to help his son. Nhan’s behavior continued to improve, with fewer tantrums and less anger and frustration. These positive changes encouraged Mr. Nguyen to continue to participate in the training sessions and accept home visits.

Throughout the nine-week parents training course, Mr. Nguyen was one of four fathers who participated actively in the parents group, never skipping a class. When Ms. Phuong became too busy with work, Mr. Nguyen attended, but then shared everything he learned with her so that they could both support their child. During home visits Mr. Nguyen diligently took notes and strove to apply guidance into practice. He shared, “I find this course is very useful and practical. The trainer has a lot of experience and her teaching method is easy to understand, so parents can easily apply it with their children at home. The special thing about this program are the home visits, during which the coach provides direct support to help parents make intervention plans for their children in a daily living setting.”

Mr. Nguyen reflects that an unexpected and significant benefit from the parents training course is how it helped him to relax and see things from a different perspective. He feels less stress and pressure now, as he explained, “Thanks to the psychological support from staff of the project and other parents, we now feel more at ease with others’ opinions. We know how to accept things more, which makes supporting our son a more joyful and less pressured experience.”

The family enjoys more happy moments as Nhan has become a happier child. He laughs more and sometimes even gives his mother a kiss on her cheek. His language abilities have improved and he is more cooperative with his parents. After six months, Mr. Nguyen shared that Nhan is able to manage self-care activities and help his parents with household chores. Nhan is also less aggressive towards his friends at school and his teacher is very pleased.

The training sessions and home visits have helped Nhan’s parents learn and apply new skills, change their perspective, and become active participants in their son’s progress. While Nhan still sometimes struggles with patience and self-control, the improvements in his behavior and in their relationship with him has motivated his parents to stay optimistic and hopeful as they face new challenges, and they are grateful for USAID I-Thrive support and guidance.