Children with special needs in Thailand find strength in the face of challenges
University of Oregon graduate Ally Tritten is currently in Thailand working with Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) as an intern with IE3 Global Internships. Ally, a family and human services major, will work for HSF for six months, helping to find homes for 200 children with special needs. The children are currently in government-run child institutions in Thailand; some of them will eventually be placed into Holt’s Waiting Child program.
Holt established a partnership with HSF in 1975. HSF serves a large number of vulnerable children through a variety of programs including adoption, pregnancy counseling, foster care, educational sponsorships and outreach services for children in hospitals and orphanages. Many of these programs help birth families stay together through counseling and assistance.
The following is an update from Ally about her first full month in Thailand (Click here to read Ally’s first blog update):
Bangkok, Thailand — I am still adjusting to my new life in Bangkok. For the last month and a half Pi Tuk, Pi Malee and I have coordinated with Child Adoption Center (another adoption agency in Thailand) and assessed approximately 30 children with special needs, all of whom live in governmental orphanages and have been diagnosed with various disabilities. Some of the common disabilities we see in the children are: cerebral palsy (CP), fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), microcephaly and macrocephaly, seizure disorders, visual and hearing impairment, delayed development, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a variety of physical disabilities. Of the four orphanages we visited in the past month, two — Nong Khai Home for Boys and Udornthani Home for Girls — are located in the northeastern part of Thailand and the other two — Ban Fueng Fah Home for Children with Special Needs and Pakkret Babies Home — are located in a nearby province outside of Bangkok. The HSF social workers and I flew by airplane to the two northeastern orphanages and spent four days assessing the overall development of 14 children.
The majority of the other children in the project live in Ban Fueng Fah Home for Children with Special Needs, where we spent most of October interviewing each child’s caretaker, physical therapists and teachers, as well as completing our own individual assessments. The assessments allow us to gain a better understanding and perspective on the children’s physical, social/emotional, cognitive and language development. Ultimately, it is our hope that each child will be matched with a loving family of their own.
The children are truly special souls, showing me how to live life in ways I have been close-minded to and opening my eyes to the idea that when you have a challenge in life, you can adapt and create new ways to interact with the world. These beautiful children show strength in areas where people generally show weakness. They are able to use their creativity and develop new ways of thinking that allow them to successfully function in the world. Some of the adaptations are truly the most impressive things that I have ever witnessed.
An almost 2-year-old little girl, born without movement in her joints, is unable to use her arms or hands. This disability, however, does not prevent her from playing with and manipulating toys like any other developing child would. Instead of using her hands and arms, this smart girl uses her feet and toes. She also feeds herself using these extremities as well. Unable to walk, she uses her legs to push herself in an up and forward position. In a very unique fashion, she uses her momentum to spring forward, allowing her to travel from one location to another.
This is just one example of the nature of each child that I have had the great pleasure to meet and interact with. The children have and continue to rock my world. They will always be a part of my heart and have affected my life forever.