Communicating, Playing & Growing

rdt published date May 31, 2024    rdt published author Mathusree Menon

  • RDT’s Oral Language Programme promotes the integration of more than 70 Children With Hearing Impairment
  • Their chances for a better future improve every year thanks to the involvement and teamwork of a group of professionals.

Sanjana finishes counting to 10 and her attentive eyes scan the playground, everything seems quiet, but the 10-year-old knows that her friends couldn’t have hidden far away. She takes a quick turn, looks behind the trees, and peeks into an empty classroom… Suddenly, behind her, nervous shouts and laughter she heard through her hearing aid gave her the clue she needed. Sanjana breaks into a run and catches one of her classmates just in time. After receiving a well-deserved “well played” pat from her friends, the little girl says thank you and smiles a triumphant smile. But what has just happened is not just a child’s game, but the result of years of work: the real triumph is hidden precisely in what you can’t see. 

Sanjana, like her classmates, has a hearing impairment. When she arrived at the RDT Bukkarayasamudram Inclusive High School for Speech and Hearing Impaired Children at the age of three, she could barely communicate. Coming from a humble family, her hearing was very limited, she was unfamiliar with sign language and had never spoken a word. After being fitted with a hearing aid, learning sign language, receiving oral language classes, with her perseverance and enthusiasm, Sanjana is not only able to communicate but also to speak.

Sanjana and her classmates’ progress is possible thanks to the Oral Language Programme launched in 2015 at the RDT High School for the Speech and Hearing Impaired. From the very beginning, the main objective of this project has been to foster language and communication through auditory and oral training and to give its participants the opportunity to go to a regular school. This long-term objective set the main axis on which everything else hinged: the need to create a solid and professional team that could provide an effective response.

What started with just one professional, expanded into a well-equipped centre with the necessary equipment and personnel making this a reference centre today. On one hand, an audiologist carries out an audio-prosthetic assessment and the fitting of hearing aids, as well as various tests and check-ups. On the other hand, a team of speech therapists gives daily sessions with the students, training their hearing and voice with patience and perseverance.

“It’s not easy: to see small advances we have to make great efforts. The teacher has to insist and be persistent, and the students also have to put a lot of effort and concentration into it. However, when they start to speak, we forget any difficulties. Many of these girls had never been able to call their mother ‘mom’,” explains Rajeswari, one of the centre’s speech therapists.

Looking to the future

The constant and tireless work of creating their content and providing ongoing training for the school’s professionals has enabled them to achieve an autonomy that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. The programme also includes advice and training for school staff, as well as meetings with families, where they receive resources to facilitate communication with their children, advice on language development and recommendations on how to care for hearing aids.

In addition, the promising results of the programme from the Bukkarayasamudram High School have prompted the programme to start in another RDT Centre in Kuderu in October 2023. Currently, 73 girls and boys are part of the programme in two schools, but these numbers are constantly changing

At the end of their primary education, thanks to the quality of the speech therapy provided by the professional team, many boys and girls with hearing impairment can communicate fluently in both sign language and oral language and continue their studies in the RDT Inclusive schools, following the ultimate goal of the program: to receive mainstream education, both at school and in a professional future.

And that is precisely where Sanjana is now. Next year, she will join the RDT’s Inclusive High School where in addition to sign language, oral language is also used. She will do it together with her friends and with the necessary resources. Thanks to the whole team, this vital moment between childhood and adolescence can finally be a child’s game. 

Text and Images: Katia Álvarez Charro

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