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Voices of the Deaf

by Savitha C Muppala on  September 24, 2007 at 12:57 PM Medindia Exclusive - Interviews and In depth Reports
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Interview with Principal St Clare Oral School For Deaf On the occasion of World Deaf Awareness Day, Medindia spoke to the Principal, Sister Phincita of St.Clare Oral School for the Deaf in Kerala. Sister Phincita has been keenly involved in the education of hearing impaired children for 13 years. We give below the excerpts of the interview:
Voices of the Deaf
Voices of the Deaf
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Your school is dedicated to providing education for the speech and hearing impaired. Could you tell us some of the major achievements of your school in enhancing life for these special children?

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Our school was established in 1993. It is a residential school. Yet, there are few day scholars.

Our students scored I and II ranks in 2002-03 and 2003-04 in S.S.L.C. School has been scoring 100% result in S.S.L.C exam since 2002-03. We try our level best to impart an all round development for the students. They over shine in District, State and National level arts and sports meet of every year. After matriculation, we train the deaf girls to meet the challenges of the future. They are given courses in house keeping, cutting and tailoring, embroidery and Kerala Government Technical Examination Typing and computers.

What categories of hearing impaired children study in your institution? How many such children are there in all?

We have 170 students. Only 10 of them come under the category of moderate hearing loss. The rest are profound hearing loss cases.

How is a typical day in student's life studying in your institution?

School starts at 9.45 am with assembly. Morning session begins at 10am to 12.50 pm. We then have a 40 minute lunch break. Afternoon session starts from 1.45 pm and goes on till 3.50pm. From 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm, students are engaged according to there interests-like volleyball, football, table tennis, dance, skating etc.

Could you briefly explain how the Indian sign language compares with its counterparts in the world?

Each country has its own sign language. There is no universal sign language. But deaf people are able to understand the Sign languages of other people. In a group of different citizens they communicate easily even though their Sign language is different.

What is the key challenge faced by the deaf in the present day? Could you elaborate some of the barriers with possible solutions?

Today is a world of competitions. As they are hearing impaired, the world of language is not open to them. So they find difficulty in competing with the other people. Thus, they go back in all competitive exams. So, they fail to secure a good position in employment.

As their defects are not visible externally, in majority of the cases the job opportunities reserved for the deaf go to the ineligible candidates. Above all to express their feelings and difficulties they need the help of others.

In what ways can society make the environment deaf -friendly in order to aid their smooth integration in society?

The society must consider them as equal citizens. No opportunity should be denied to them due to their defects. We must understand and accept the fact that they are only hearing impaired. The remaining sense organs are functioning. We must stop sympathizing with them.

Do you think there are equal opportunities for the deaf in India?

No. not at all.

How many institutions like yours exist in India for the speech and hearing impaired?

There are around 50 institutions in Kerala for the hearing impaired.

Are the parents/families of such children counseled to assist them suitably? How do you go about this process?

In majority of the cases the parents are not aware of their role in assisting the children. Almost all of them are terribly upset and sympathize with the children. When a parent contacts us we do guide them and counsel them to assist the child. Parents are given due training in speech therapy.

Parental co-operation is a must for bringing out the best from the student. Some parents do not come to terms with the fact that their children are hearing impaired, in such cases we counsel the parents and help them accept the defect and provide encouragement to the child.

What have been the overriding causes of speech and hearing impairment in the children? Have the awareness programmes and timely screening helped in reducing the numbers of hearing impaired children?

The major causes for hearing impairment in children are - 1. Hereditary 2. Meningitis 3. Pre-natal injuries 4. Brain injuries 5. Excessive bleeding during pregnancy 6. Pre -mature birth 7. Marriage among blood relations etc.

Awareness programmes could reduce the problem to a certain extent. Speech therapy, cochlear implantation surgery is certainly a boon in helping the hearing impaired child. The most important assistance is to begin speech therapy early enough, thus awareness programmes is a must to educate the public about early introduction of speech therapy. This can reduce speech impairment to a great extent.

Source: Medindia
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