In June 2009 - pushed by circumstances - the Vientiane Autism Center opend as first institution in Laos caring especially for children with Autism. At that time parents were facing problems finding pre schools or primary schools accepting their kids with special needs. The first month saw nine kids enroling at VAC, in September we had eleven. Also the number of teachers increased from originally four to six by February 2011. We were very lucky having two very experienced experts in special education from Thailand working for VAC from the first day on. Thanks to their initiative and dedication our center was able to offer services to children with autism at a quite high level. Experts from Thailand, Australia and Singapur confirmed that VAC is on the right track.
Currently we have 40 children and 16 teachers. One of our teachers is from Thailand and graduated in special education. But also our Lao teaching staff is making very good progress. They are learning from their Thai colleague and also participated in short term courses and lectures at VAC as well as in Thailand. After Mrs. Karina Vitelli-Schwab from Switzerland Mrs. Sharon Gorton from Australia is supporting especially teacher training at VAC.
Since October 2012 some of our pupils are learning together with children of the neigbourhood in a nearby public schools. In the school year 2015-16 14 of our kids are enroled in premary and 1 in secondary school. They are accompanied by five of our teachers who are supporting our kids during classes.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Sports we are supporting the establishment of training courses in special education in Laos.
Starting from the first day it became obvious that not all families were able to pay the monthly fee of 220 Euro.
As an example we would like to talk about Kola and his parents. Kola was admitted to VAC on 1. September 2010. The thin boy wasn't able to speak, as most of the kids when they newly arrive at VAC. During the first three months he made good progress, but suddently he stayed away. In some discussions we learned that Kola's mother was chronically ill and was admitted to hospital. The family had sold almost everything from juwelry to land in order to pay for the treatment both mother and child. Kola's father works as driver at a local company for a salary of about 150 EUR.
So we discussed what could be done to bring Kola back to VAC. There was not much choice: we reduced the fee for Kola to 100 and than to 30 EUR.
Kola is coming regularly to VAC and makes progress again. His case was on top of the list when the LAA board in January 2012 discussed the applications for scholarships. Starting from February 2012 the Scholarship Fund takes over a big part of the fee for the boy.
Kola's parents are not the only ones having problems to pay for an appropriate education of their kids with autism. Currently the Scholarship Fund supports 16 families. A number of applications stills waits for decision. Due to the current income situation of the fund decisions are still pending.