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BIS hosts first SENIA meeting in Ho Chi Minh City

This past Friday, BIS hosted the very first SENIA (Special Education Needs in Asia) meeting in Ho Chi Minh City. In all, eight schools were represented from across the city to discuss advocacy and awareness of SEN (Special Education Needs) in Ho Chi Minh City.

SENIA is an organisation dedicated to fostering links between Special Education professionals and advocating for the differently-abled. They run annual professional development for teachers as well as advocating for special needs and awareness-raising across Asia. It exists in 15 regions across twelve countries, Vietnam gaining its chapter just last year in 2019. At that time, both myself and Ms Sarah Battersby (Primary LS Leader) became two of the first board members for our Vietnam Chapter: Membership Coordinator (HCMC) and Advocacy and Awareness Rep (HCMC) respectively.

SENIA Workshop 2020

For the first half of the meeting, the discussion was centred around what could be done to raise awareness of learning needs across Ho Chi Minh City. In Vietnam today, there are still many who have not heard of common learning difficulties - such as Dyslexia or the Autism Spectrum - let alone understand the many strengths and challenges faces by those with learning needs. Therefore, this part of the conversation was focused on how to raise awareness within our schools (in terms of events), the involvement of stakeholders (including parents and charity organisations) and what such awareness-raising might require logistically. Our goal in the near future would be to establish an annual awareness event that is part of the calendar in schools across the city. This would bring awareness and understanding of those students who have learning needs across the city, eliminating stereotypes and preconceptions in the process.

The second half of the meeting was dedicated to advocacy: in particular, setting standards on professionals that our schools work with. This would include Educational Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and others. As the city develops, we have an increasing number of professionals offering SEN-related services in Ho Chi Minh City. And, as in any profession, some are better (and better qualified) than others. Because these are professionals that could have a significant impact on the support for learning that occurs in schools, it is vitally important for us to have high expectations relating to the professionals that we work with - particularly if these are individuals that we will be referring to parents. So, as a group of SEN professionals with our combined decades of experience, we agreed on standards ranging from professional qualifications to safeguarding concerns, to quality of assessment, and to the professionalism and ethics of the specialists we work with. In the end, our hope is that all professionals that work with our students only have the highest quality of assessment and support possible.

SENIA Workshop

In all, our first SENIA meeting was a success - not only in meeting our objectives for common understanding but also in bringing our wider SEN community closer together. This first meeting has set the groundwork for future discussions, which will continue in the 2020-21 school year. If you would like to learn more about Special Education Needs in Asia, the main SENIA website can be found here, and the Vietnam Chapter site is located here

Ian Young, Head of Learning Support 

We encourage all children to develop to their full potential but recognise that some children may require additional support

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