In an attempt to overcome these problems, an ‘Early Intervention Centre’ was opened by the Government managed by the Rangammal School for the Deaf in 2007-2008, generously supported by the Government of Tamilnadu. Two ‘teachers’ were trained and salaries paid by the Government.The stated aim of this Early Intervention Centre was somewhat different to those outlined above i.e.
- To provide intensive training for deaf infants 2½ – 3 years and above i.e. Pre-School, to enable them to be admitted into mainstream schools from 1st standard
A laudable aim but not fulfilling the true purpose of ‘early intervention’ as previously outlined.
However, given the above constraints, 77 children were enrolled. The mothers also accompanied the child and were taught the fundamentals of intervention and the role she needed to play in the child’s development, especially speech. Other family members were also welcomed and every attempt was made to include siblings and if possible fathers.
The Government generously provided many teaching aids and the concept of ‘learning through play’ was followed.
As RMSD had already been running such a ‘Pre-School Centre’, the existing Primary section teachers were well versed in these techniques and were able to supplement the efforts of the two teachers sponsored by the Government.
Parents who could afford the cost have provided hearing aids tailored to the child’s level of hearing loss and good progress has been made with both speech and cognitive development.
12 children have already been integrated into ‘regular’ schools and seem to be doing well.
However, for those children, who are severely or profoundly deaf, at the present time, it is not always successful and a proportion of children are re-admitted at 5th or 6th standard level to our school who have very limited understanding of the material they have been taught as they could only ‘copy’ from the blackboard and not understand.
This is a great challenge for us all Government, NGOs, parents alike.
The initial outlay – screening materials, access to potentially vulnerable children, buying and maintaining the required hearing aids, would require resources beyond us as an NGO at the moment, but where there is a ‘will’ there is always a ‘way’.