VIETNAM ADOPTIONS: ASSESSING YOUR CHILD’S DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS

Adoption and bringing your new infant or toddler home from Vietnam are very exciting and memorable times. Once calmness descends upon your household however parents direct their full attention to their child’s development and functioning in the new environment. Not only do they observe their child’s recognition of them when they are near they also notice their child’s interest in toys, ability to hold their bottle and their ability to physically maneuver. During these early months, parents tend to observe what other children the same age are doing and how their child measures up. There is also the inevitable comparison with developmental milestones as outlined by child-rearing experts. By one year of age many children have a small vocabulary, can grasp and hold small items and can crawl. Generally at two years of age they like to copy their parents, demonstrate affection, begin communicating in small sentences and enjoy feeding themselves.

For parents who have adopted from Vietnam the concern is heightened because the child may have lived in impoverishment in the countryside, may have suffered from life threatening medical problems and/or been neglected. The impact of these circumstances is immeasurable on fragile bodies and delicate brains. It is for these reasons adoptive parents of children through 3 years of age are urged to avail themselves of the Early Intervention program. The good news is parents can request these services themselves especially if they are worried their child is lagging in acquiring speech skills, experiencing difficulty crawling or walking or in responding to family members. Funded by the government and free to families, your infant or toddler is entitled to assessments by a clinical team of professionals who have considerable experience in observing and understanding young children.

These specialists may include a psychologist who will assess you child’s ability to perform tasks and ability to copy or learn new information. An early childhood specialist will meet with your child to understand your child’s learning styles and areas which need strengthening. The speech therapist will study the child’s style of forming words and self-expression, while the occupational therapist will measure the youngster’s strategies for manipulating and hold small items. Too the physical therapist will assess crawling, standing, sitting and walking development. You will also become an active member of the team sharing medical reports from your international pediatrician, who will be readily available to consult with the team. Additionally you will provide background and observations on your youngster to the clinicians.

The assessment may take approximately one month or more depending on whether it is conducted by the Department of Education at a nearby school or in a private diagnostic center referred by your pediatrician. Once the evaluation is completed you and the members of the team will meet to discuss their conclusions and recommendations and you will receive a comprehensive written and oral report of their findings. You are then in the position to decide with the team what you feel is in the best interests of your child. If you are in agreement with the diagnostic team your child then stands to benefit from speech therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy while you and the family can receive support counseling and family counseling. Many times these services are provided in your home giving you the opportunity to also reinforce the strategies you have observed.

Other times appointments are scheduled at nearby Early Intervention offices. You may feel free to contact your local school for further information or consult with your pediatrician. It is suggested when you do receive referrals for programs you visit a number of them before committing to their services. You may want to meet with the Director to understand the program’s philosophy, inquire how long the program has been in existence and understand what credentials the teachers possess who will work with your child. Too, see if you can meet with the professionals who will be working with your child. Be sure to ask how many sessions of therapy your child will receive weekly, how long the sessions will last and where the services will be provided– in your home or in the agency’s offices. Remember these are your child’s formative years. Make every effort to ensure your child receives the evaluation and services s(he) needs to establish a good foundation for learning and realizing full potential.

Be sure to share information about your child’s participation in the Early Intervention program with your social worker during your post-supervisory meetings. Your adoption agency and The Socialist Republic of Vietnam will be impressed your child has been availed of such individualized services designed to meet his/her specific needs.

Written By Roberta Kalmar LMSW of Adoptiondoctors.com

**Roberta Kalmar, LMSW, licensed master social worker has worked with special education evaluation teams as a guidance counselor and social worker for over 25 years. She maintains an Adoption Home Study practice specializing in international adoptions and has recently toured orphanages in Vietnam.
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