In the current edition of ONE, Anubha George writes about how children with hearing impairments are getting A Sound Education (old/broken link: https://cnewa.org/default.aspx?ID=3992&pagetypeID=4&sitecode=SSSS&pageno=1) at a school in Kerala. But, as she writes below, sometimes it isn’t just the students who leave the school having learned a thing or two.
The visit to St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf in the southern Indian state of Kerala brought back memories. It was four years ago. A niece of mine was born premature, at 34 weeks. The neonatologist suggested tests pretty much every week, for her eyes and her hearing. Premature babies are more at risk of auditory problems.
Thankfully, there was no problem with her hearing. My visit to St. Clare reminded me of that time. Yet, it also taught me many things that I’m embarrassed to confess — things I had been judgemental about before. We felt relieved when my niece passed that audiometry test because we saw hearing impairment as a disability that would stop her from leading a “normal” life. But I met children at this school who lead fulfilling and happy lives. Some were partially hearing impaired, some fully. But there wasn’t a hint of self pity or a sense that something was lacking in their lives.
I often hear people describe a child with hearing impairment as “deaf and dumb.” Sister Abhaya, the principal in charge at the school, told me that was incorrect on so many levels. She gave me an example. I’m an Indian. Let’s say I go to Germany for a visit. I know not a word of German. If I’m in a group where everybody is speaking German, I wouldn’t be able to understand a thing or contribute to the conversation. I would be “dumb.” Any one of us can be “dumb” in certain circumstances. But these children have their own language to communicate — one I don’t know, sign language.
I’ve made a promise to myself: I’ll never again use the word “dumb.”
I also came to realize — to my embarassment — that some things I disparage can change lives.
I’m not a fan of smart phones, for the way they can sometimes take over everything we do. But at St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf, I found that smart phones are crucial. They offer the students a lifeline. When the students use video to make a call, they can see people — they can read lips and communicate. On a video call, they can chat and share with their friends in sign language; they can see faces and read emotions.
My visit to the school was a revelation — and helped me discover that sometimes a school offers lessons not only to those in its classrooms, but to visitors from outside, as well.
Read more about the St. Clare Oral School for the Deaf in the July 2019 edition of ONE.