Confidence rising for Vietnamese kids with Down's syndrome

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Vietnamese Down syndrome patients perform a folk song in Bangkok, Thailand last September. Photo by P. Thu

My Future, a group of seven Vietnamese children with Down syndrome and other mental disabilities, wowed the crowd with their performance of a northern folksong and a chicken dance.

Since their world debut at a Bangkok conference for disabled people last September, the children have gained a lot of confidence.

My Future was formed in early 2009 by the children's parents who have funded and organized their activities with support from the Ho Chi Minh City-based Disability Research and Capacity Development under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations.

Ton Thi Kim Dien, mother of My Future member Le Hoai Yen Linh, who traveled with the group, said the group was the smallest to attend the conference, but delivered "outstanding performances."

"They looked like they had no ideas, but they amazed people," Dien said.

Ha Thanh, another group member, told her story in English about studying in Melbourne last year.

"My friend David could walk from home to school. I wish I could do the same.

"I learned English, made wafers, wrote emails, and visited 12 elephants across the city.

"Now I have many friends on Facebook and I want to see them again here every year."

Thanh was selected to be My Future representative for exchange programs with others in the region, including an online conference this month.

Parents of the children said they have improved "significantly" by following the group activities, including weekly Aikido, swimming, cooking classes besides academic education. They went on field trips where they learned survival skills and how to make incense.

Phan Thi Thu, mother of 27-year-old member Canh Tuan, said she used to be tormented by her wish that her son did not have Down's syndrome.

But through joining the group, Thu said, she and other mothers have learned to accept their children's fate.

"It could never be total happiness for sure, but we're now more focused on moving on, on how to make life better for them."

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