Families learning to care for children living with disabilities
Everyday life can be challenging for a family with disabilities, especially for those living in developing communities overseas. This was certainly the case for Hung, a farmer living with his family in Cao Bang Province. Hung found himself struggling to understand his eight-year-old daughter, Hao, and meet her needs as a young child with Down syndrome.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. “She doesn’t know how to speak, and when she speaks it’s not clear, sometimes only a few words.”
Hung faced new, unexpected challenges raising a daughter with a disability. He needed to adjust to a whole new way of life and learn how to help support Hao’s development.
ChildFund Australia is working with local communities to help support parents of children living with disabilities. Through the ChildFund-supported project ‘My Right to Education’, families are building support networks for a more accepting environment and culture. This includes promoting a more inclusive learning environment in schools and the community, and openly discussing the additional needs of children with disabilities.
“Before, Hao could only name one friend from the same commune, but now she speaks to her teacher and has more friends.”
“We can now speak with commune officials and teachers so that our children aren’t denied the right to participate. They are able to learn and achieve at school,” says Hung. “Hao has received a lot of guidance from teachers and the the project team.”
Hung says that his daughter’s social skills have improved as a result. “Before, Hao could only name one friend from the same commune, but now she speaks to her teacher and has more friends.”
Through the project’s training sessions, Hung and his wife have also learnt how to guide Hao to keep personal hygiene and carry out daily activities. “Hao now listens to us,” says Hung, adding he is proud of her achievements. “She knows how to brush teeth, get dressed, and comb hair all by herself.”
“I’ve changed my habits too,” says Hung. I’m more patient now, and spend time playing with my children outside!”
This year, Hung registered to raise chickens to improve his children’s nutrition and his family’s finances. With only a few fields to cultivate, there are days when the family does not have enough to eat. As part of the ChildFund project, participating families can choose to buy chickens at a subsidised rate. Families receive chicken feed for the first 20 days, as well as guidance on how to raise chickens.
“I bought 100 chickens. I plan to raise them for food, and I can also sell them to buy school supplies for my children.”
Hung’s decision to register was, in part, guided by his daughter’s personal taste. “Because Hao likes to eat chicken, I bought 100 chickens. I plan to raise them for food, and I can also sell them to buy school supplies for my children.”
Hung shared that, thanks to the support and guidance of project team members, his chickens are growing healthily.
“I installed heat lamps for the chickens and gave them medicine to prevent diseases. I also boiled guava leaf water to give the chickens to drink. Hao also helps me feed the chickens and plays with them. She hopes the chickens grow up fast!”
Looking ahead, Hung hopes more parents of children with disabilities, as well as the wider community, will take the time to understand and accept their child’s needs so they can provide the right support. Hung says he and his wife, Lua, dream for Hao is simple: “We hope she is healthy and won’t be criticised or shunned by others.”