Caroline Mrowiec, Orphan Voice’s Hope Therapy Center

Tan and his mom

Every session starts with Tan running to me for a hug, yelling, “Co Ly! Co Ly!” (Aunt Ly- my Vietnamese name).

This is my little buddy, Tan. He has been coming to the center for almost a year now. Tan has ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and behavioral issues. If only we could find a way to harness his activeness, we could solve the energy crisis. The first time I met Tan and his mother, Tan was running wild through the house and his mother cried and begged us to accept Tan to the therapy center. Tan’s father passed away a few years ago, and I believe some of Tan’s issues stem from this. One session, his mom told us that during the previous night, Tan had woken her up and asked her, “Did my father really die? Please don’t leave me.”

Tan used to have good and bad days, emphasis on the bad. Now it is the opposite. A recent achievement for Tan is that he has consistently been brushing his teeth in the morning instead of having a temper tantrum like he used to. He also used to use any place in his home as a toilet, but we have finally transitioned him out of this free-spirited lifestyle.

Tan has been enjoying the new toys at the center which my Aunt Kimi donated.

My aunt and cousin came to visit me in April and they spent a day of their vacation helping me at the center, as well as giving us some new toys and equipment for the kids.

One game they brought- Hungry Hippos- has topped the center’s popular toy chart and is the number one requested item at the center. It is especially a favorite with our children with behavioral issues, and more than one game I have played with them has ended in a fist fight. I am trying to tone down my competitiveness though and I keep telling myself that the only real loser is a bad sport. Keep in mind that I did grow up with a brother (who shall remain nameless), who used to flip the game board at strategic moments when a loss was inevitable for him.

Speaking of Miles, he has developed a communication app for me to use with my nonverbal clients. I bullied him into doing this for his senior project at college. It has been a lot of hard work (for Miles) but with no regrets (I don’t have any). In the US, children who cannot verbally communicate often use some sort of augmentative communication device. This can be in various forms, depending on the child’s abilities, but often times, it is an ipad with a downloaded communication app, allowing the child to select pictures, phrases, or words to let others know what they are thinking.

Many of our families have a smartphone, which means they could download an app to use with their child at home. However, I was unable to find a communication app in Vietnamese, so that is where Miles stepped in (rather willingly, as if he had an option to do otherwise).

We have been trialing the app with an 8-year-old boy at the center named Phu.

Look at this angel face- you would never know that he is capable of doing anything wrong, but he does dabble a bit in bad behaviors. Phu understands Vietnamese, but he is unable to speak because of his physical disabilities. He can yell though, and he used to yell until he got what he wanted. The volume of his yelling was only rivaled by its frequency. We have been able to phase out this behavior for the most part though, by replacing it with sign language and the communication app. There has also been a downturn in his behaviors of spitting and hitting others.

Tai, pictured below, also looks angelic but in his case, looks are not deceiving; he is a super sweet 18-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.

When I first met him, Tai showed me how he can use an ipad with his foot and pick up items with his toes. We have been working on the skills needed to pull his pants up and down. He can now manage his clothing during toileting, and does not need his mom to help him go to the bathroom anymore.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support! Go Cubs!