My connection with VAANI began 14 years back when I had to accompany Ms.Brinda Crishna, the founder of VAANI, and Ms.Sreela Bose – one of the well-known experts in the field of deafness, for visiting some of the NGOs in Guwahati and Jorhat in Assam.
During one of these visits, what made me wonder was something Sreela di asked in one of her interactive sessions with the special educators of an NGO, “Do you know what can happen if one does not hear?”
No one answered. So she got all of us to plug our ears tight with our fingers. She spoke out a line and then asked us to unplug our ears and repeat what she said.
None of us could repeat the full sentence that she said, as we could not hear with our ears plugged.
She then said, “If you do not hear, you cannot repeat or speak; if you cannot speak you cannot communicate and the inability to communicate can lead to social and emotional imbalance, and delay in cognitive and language development.”
That was when I realized how blessed all the hearing people are, and ever since then my journey of curiosity to know and learn about ‘Deafness’ never ceased and I became a part of VAANI’s journey.
Close observation in the past was that a lot of people thought that supporting a hearing-impaired child meant providing Hearing Aids which was always willingly offered. There was very little understanding about the importance of all the rest that followed after being given a Hearing Aid to a deaf child – the auditory training and regular speech therapy which of course is not the only solution; as each child’s level of hearing loss differs and a Hearing Aid may not just be enough. So there is a need to also incorporate the use of signs, lip reading etc. and the other elements of nonverbal communication under such circumstances for effective communication.
VAANI’s work involves addressing all the aspects mentioned above – that follow after being identified – a holistic approach that includes empowering the parent or the caregiver along with the child’s intervention; covering the social and emotional needs of the child and the family in addition to bringing communication, comprehension and language into their lives to make it more meaningful and progressive.
The last 15 years of VAANI’s work with NGO partners and governmental agencies has brought about a shift in their thinking from just providing Hearing Aids to ensuring that the Hearing Aid is accompanied with an Ear Mould followed with arrangements for Speech Therapy Sessions.
While working with parents regularly a line often heard from them was, ‘Wish we met VAANI earlier’. This struck me and made me realize how VAANI’s touch began to make a difference in their lives and it kept me energized in this selfless journey.
The lacunae in data of Children With Hearing Impairment in the age group 0 to 3 years and the understanding of our partner agencies about the need for early intervention has led to VAANI’s pilot programme on New Born Hearing Screen at the Tumkur district in Karnataka. Plans for similar Programmes are in the pipeline for the states of West Bengal and Assam. VAANI is also playing the role of being part of the State Resource Group in Assam for the RMSA – Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Mission (earlier also for SSA) to support with designing of the Screening Tool for field workers.
The Hearing Impaired Population is very scattered and those in difficult geographical terrain are often not reached. So this has always been a struggle to project a cost-effective programme which is looked into by funding partners.
Today, a Techno- friendly Team and the pandemic situation, has driven VAANI to reach out to this section – the unreached population with the help of Virtual Technology.
A lot is yet to be achieved and with the support of sensitized community volunteers, trained professionals, peers, corporates, parent champions, partner agencies, the government and a futuristic team VAANI hopes to reach greater heights ensuring that every deaf child has a voice and is part of the mainstream society.
Blog by Ms.Ajita Gohain
Deputy Programme Head
VAANI, Deaf Children’s Foundation