I remember the first time Misha's family came to our support group. He was eight months old then, and had only just started wearing a hearing aid. His mum called them headphones and couldn't believe that her son really couldn't hear anything.
Mishutka is the long-awaited third child in his family and is very loved. His mum herself used to work with visually impaired children as a teacher. We could see how sensitively and affectionately she interacted with her son, and in return he would smile at her with his wide-eyed look. But he didn't talk at all.
Summer passed and autumn was making itself felt.
The group started meeting again and again we saw Misha and his family. This wide-eyed boy had grown up a lot over the summer and he had also had a cochlear implant fitted. Now he turns round when you call him, even if you just whisper. True, he finds it difficult to locate where the sound is coming from, but that can be learnt. Mishka babbles away a lot now and laughs out loud! At the club he really likes to play with his brother and with the other children and absolutely loves all the different musical instruments!
With your help we've been running not one but two support groups for children with hearing impairments in St Petersburg. As we enjoy our summer holidays, I wanted to tell you about some of the successes we've had in the last six months.
One of our babies is 10 months old. She has two cochlear implants, which can help replace lost hearing sensations. At first these weren't adjusted correctly and she would flinch at loud noises. We adjusted it, but then she stopped reacting to speech. Third time lucky! Now with the correct adjustment she has started to talk.
Vova, Philip and three of their friends are now able to recognise songs in our music sessions and move to the music.
Our toddlers are also doing well. They can say short words like "da" (yes) and "dai" (give me).
One of our mums came to us when her baby was very little, straight after she had been told her baby had a hearing impairment. She was having trouble accepting this diagnosis, but with support from our leaders and the other parents, she is coming to terms with it.
Lastly, the children in our photo will all be joining mainstream kindergartens next year.
Congratulations to all our children who have made such great progres. Thank you to everyone who has helped them along the way.
I first saw Pasha in the autumn. He came with his mum to our Club. Pasha was 2 years-old then, and he was a very timid little boy, with a nervous smile and awkward movements. He just couldn't make up his mind to come into the room where all the children, with their mums, were dancing, singing and having fun. Pasha just peeped through the door and then went back into the corridor. It was obvious that he wanted to be with everyone, but either fear or indecision held him back.
Then I took a few toys and went out to him in the corridor. His mum was sitting down, tired, while Pasha lay on a share and rhythmically rocked himself looking at the ceiling. Apart from the lights, it didn't look like anything interested him. His mum explained, "for the first two years, Pasha couldn't walk. At all. He moved around on his back, orientating himself by the ceiling".
I said, "One! Two! Three! Lights go out!" and I switched off the light. Pasha turned to look at me. I asked him, "Shall we turn the lights back on?". In reply he smiled and I understood that that meant "Yes!". Again I said, "One! Two! Three! Lights come on!". We repeated this many times, and this is how we began to get to know one another.
Pasha's mum told me their story. Not knowing that she was pregnant, she took the flu vaccine, which, according to her doctor had sad consequences. Her little boy was born with multiple developmental disabilities, including damage to his inner ear. "We knew that he would be born with problem. The scan told us that. But his father and I decided not to abandon our son". Despite their dedication, however, his parents were having trouble understanding Pasha's signals.
Step by step, Pasha started getting more involved in the Club's activities. To begin with he would come and join in for just five minute, then fifteen . . .
Now, Pasha comes before all the others and listens to music, dances, plays, and draws with all the others. He gets up to lots of interesting and important things. Most of all he loves to dance the waltz!
Pasha's mum also smiles now. She notices and is proud of her son's achievements and says to him, "Well, Pasha, I didn't think that you had it in you!".
Our Club is the only place where Pasha and his mum can be supported. Without such support more parents may abandon their disabled children to orphanages. You can help more children, if you donate on Wednesday 12th June, when GlobalGiving will add 40% to your donation so it will buy even more food for us. This applies to all donations up to $1,000 made through globalgiving.org (not the UK site) after 9am EDT (2pm in UK) until midnight EDT or when matching funds run out
Tomorrow, 13th March, is Global Giving’s first donation matching day of 2013. 30% will be added to donations made through www.globalgiving.org/projects/deaf-children/ from 9am EDT (1pm GMT) while funds last (please note offer is through globalgiving.org not globalgiving.co.uk).
We are also delighted to announce changes to our project which mean that your donation will help even more young children with hearing problems. Until now our group has only been able to take babies from the age of nine months, but we are now able to create a new group for very young babies. From now on babies from three months to one year and their parents will have their own dedicated group.
It is usually a great shock for parents to realise that their child can’t hear them. Without support, this shock can deeply affect the way they communicate with their baby. A deaf baby may not be able to hear their mummy cooing over them, but they still look for eye contact and their parents’ smile, they still need to be cuddled and comforted. When parents are consumed with anxiety about their baby’s recently discovered disability, they may not communicate as much in these non-verbal ways. By the time their baby is fitted with a hearing aid a few months later, the essential bond between parent and child may be seriously weakened. Once this happens it is difficult to restore and both parent and child will suffer emotionally and find it harder to start communicating with each other.
Our new group will help parents who are still in a state of shock to overcome their anxiety and to show their baby how much they love them. When their babies are one year old, they will move on to the group you have already heard so much about, where through music and play they will learn to tune in to the world around them.
Don't forget to donate tomorrow if you'd like to help this new group flourish, and watch this space. We'll have more news and pictures when our new group has gathered.
Fedya first came to our club in September 2012 with his mum. This was a difficult time for her as tried to come to terms with Fedya's hearing impairment. In January they started to come to the club regularly and since then they have both changed. Fedya is very curious about the world around him, and his mother helps him with everything.
As well as organised group games to encourage the children to listen, the club also uses finger painting and toys to interact with the children in more natural situations as you can see in our video. They are encouraged to listen and to respond with signs and words if they have started to talk. Parents who don't have any hearing problems can find it difficult to communicate with their hearing-impaired child. These sessions help the parents as much as the children by strengthening communication between them.
It costs £13/$20 to put on a play and painting session for 15 children and their parents. Your donation could help Fedya go to a mainstream kindergarten one day.
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