A first for stuttering in Vietnam
Dr Sally Hewat, Senior Lecturer in Speech Pathology, recently took the first ever formal intensive stuttering treatment to Vietnam. A Memorandum of Understanding with Pham Ngoc Thack University of Medicine has sparked the development of stuttering professionals and researchers, giving people who stutter their first hope of treatment.
In October 2011, the Trinh Foundation, a charity organisation working tirelessly to develop speech therapy services in Vietnam, invited Sally to deliver a course in stuttering as a part of a new training program they initiated and were funding at Pham Ngoc Thack University of Medicine, Ho Chi Minh City.
Previously, there were no formal training courses for speech-language therapists in Vietnam. People who stuttered were left to rely on self-help groups or self-taught strategies and techniques to assist with controlling their condition.
Due to other commitments and priorities at the time, Sally was only able to teach a week intensive course.
"Not nearly long enough to cover the material I wanted to," she said.
So, Sally made a commitment to return in 2012. But, this time she stayed for three months!
Dr Sally Hewat (with flowers) with Speech Pathology colleagues and students at Pham Ngoc Thack University of Medicine.
Dr Sally Hewat with members of the Saigon Echo Group, a self-help group who practice 'talking', share knowledge and provide support in the absence of formal treatment programs for stuttering in Vietnam.
A multitude of 'wins'
During this time Sally was able to provide more teaching into the program and assist with curriculum development, as well as build a research culture that would ensure further development of the profession locally.
She also initiated numerous research projects with professionals and academics in Vietnam and the broader South East Asian community.
The biggest outcome was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between UoN and Pham Ngoc Thack University, which will allow for ongoing collaborations.
"I am looking forward to using my experiences and knowledge to enhance integration of an international and intercultural stream within all aspects of curricula and research within the discipline," she said.
Sally is hoping to provide more opportunities for UoN Speeth Pathology students to visit and complete clinical courses in Vietnam. She would also like to develop online collaborative learning spaces for our students to work with Vietnamese peers and professionals.
Unexpected personal rewards
"There was so much I wanted to achieve professionally, but I wasn't prepared for how great the personal reward would be," she said.
Sally lived in Vietnam with her husband and three daughters during these months. She said that experiencing a 'culture shock' forced a rethink of her ideas about cultural competency and what this means for health professionals working with 'difference'.
"Being a minority in a very mono-cultural society and not being able to speak the language was more challenging than I had anticipated. It forced me to reflect on my Western views. Eventually, I learnt about the culture by living it!"
As for all the people who have stuttered their whole life without receiving formal treatment? The time will come when they'll have access to a treatment program as Sally's efforts gradually help to develop a growing number of stuttering professionals and researchers in Vietnam.
Sally is planning to return to Vietnam later this year.