The Vietnamese Family Autism Advisory Board (VFAAB) is a coalition of families, passionate community members, and medical and support service providers formed in 2017 to support families of children with developmental delay in the Vietnamese community. The Board seeks to be a resource to families and community members, assisting people to connect to therapeutic and support services across the care system and educating the community about autism and developmental delay. The goal of the coalition is to strengthen the community and the medical/educational system to promote an environment where families and children of all abilities are treasured and thriving.

In September 2017, a community focus group including parents, health care providers, and representatives from Vietnamese community organizations met to better understand the experiences of families of children with developmental disability. The group desired to hear the life experiences of Vietnamese families and begin to help families navigate the confusing and complex system of care for children with special needs.

During the early meetings of VFAAB, the group identified a pressing need in the community for wide-spread education about autism and developmental delay, including the importance of early screening and intervention, and the need for public messaging to change the cultural stigma and family isolation related to the diagnosis.

The Board also identified activities it wants to undertake to help address some of these issues.

  1. Hold monthly meetings to promote community connection between parents and their children and medical and allied health service providers, and provide space for parents to share their life experiences and challenges.
  2. Write articles and create videos in Vietnamese to help the community learn more about Autism and developmental delay, the struggles families face, how to recognize developmental delay, and where to go if a parent is concerned it might be affecting their child.
  3. Support knowledge of early parenting approaches for children with delays through in-person trainings with field experts.  Teach parents and other care-givers strategies to help their child to bridge the gap as they await for ABA services.
  4. Improve the referral process and experience for Vietnamese children with suspected delay to get needed evaluation and services.

In order to support these activities, HopeCentral staff submitted two grants to Seattle-King County Best Starts for Kids initiative, a tax levy aimed at improving the lives of children in King County.

In August, HopeCentral and VFAAB were awarded two grants totaling almost $350,000 to put these ideas into action. The county has prioritized these funds specifically for the Vietnamese community.  King County is home to 42,000 residents from Vietnam, the sixth largest county concentration of Vietnamese in the US.  It is with much pride that the Vietnamese community is being recognized through the award of these two grants.  These funds will help improve the lives of Vietnamese children and families. They will also fund endeavors aimed at improving cultural awareness in the medical and educational support system as it cares for Vietnamese speaking families.