Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate

by St Gregory's Foundation
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate
Help 30 Russian kids with hearing loss communicate

One of the developments at our Club for hearing impaired toddlers and their families is tthat in the last year we have invited more families from outside St Petersburg to join us.  Some come from as far away as Vladivostok in the far East or from other republics, like Kyrgystan, for treatment in St Petersburg.  While they are with us, they are able to find friendship and therapeutic support for their child's development.  They are also creating happy memories of what could otherwise be a difficult time in our city.

We also have a family whose past is more traumatic and future more uncertain.  Anastasia and Nazar, mother and son, are refugees from eastern Ukraine.  They have been living with relatives in St Petersburg and coming to our Club since March.  They were lucky enough to meet one of our parents, who invited them to come along.

The Club has helped the family hugely in practical and emotional ways. It was particularly important for Anastasia to find such a group, since she uses sign language exclusively to communicate.  The parents she has met at the Club have helped her orient herself in the city and find other ways of engaging with the deaf community.  The Club was also able to lend Nazar a hearing aid, since his was lost in the rush to leave their home.  In June Nazar was able to start at a specialist kindergarten for deaf children, again with our help.  Our audiologist provided a fresh diagnosis and smoothed the path through the bureacracy involved in getting a place for Nazar. 

Anna, the relative they have been staying with, tells us that Nazar is enjoying kindergarten very much and will be going on summer camp this year.  Anastasia has also found a job. They are very grateful for the help they have received from the club.

With summer, we also said goodbye to some of our older children who will be going to mainstream kindergartens.  We are very proud of them.  They are able to play on their own and with other children.  They can also ask grown-ups for help when they need to.  It will be much easier for them to integrate into their new kindergarten with these skills.  We look forward to welcoming new families in September.  In the meantime, we wish you a very happy summer.

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Artur, Ronya and Trina
Artur, Ronya and Trina

Our Club is split into two groups: one for parents who are hearing, and one for parents who are deaf.  Antonina and her family have been a part of our second group for some years.  They have three children, Ronya, Trina and Artur.  All three have impaired hearing, as do their parents, and all three have come to our club since they were babies.   Antonina and her partner use Russian sign language and speech to communicate.  They make sure their children use their hearing aids consistently, which has helped them a great deal.  Ronya, the eldest, has just started mainstream school and speaks very well.  Trina started kindergarten in September, but also comes to the Club with her brother.  She has started saying a lot of words and even full sentences.  Arthur is just 15 months old.  He usually comes to the Club with his Papa.  He is a very positive little boy.  He makes a lot of sounds, and can say several words already.  He also knows how to communicate what he wants and how he is feeling with gestures, signs and smiles.  As well as the main Club activities we were able to arrange a meeting with a paediatrician for Artur's parents to advise on how they could help the development of Artur's motor skills, which they were concerned about.

Artur's papa is very attentive and kind.  He understands children very well and plays with his own children and the others in the group.  His mum comes when her work allows.  She is a sportswoman and travels to compete.  They are a very friendly family and an excellent example for other parents in our group.  Antonina may not be able to come frequently to the Club, but she can see how important they are and greatly appreciates them.

"We have brought all three children to the Club since they were babies, about 8 months old.  We really like the atmosphere here.  The teachers are very attentive and observant.  If a child is tired, no-one gets cross or forces them to do anything.  They simply continue the activity with the other children.  The child gets bored playing on their own and soon returns to the activity.  My children love the music, the games and the tea and snacks.  The Club gives the children a great deal, an interest in music and the sounds around them, development of their fine motor skills, getting to know and play with other children, drawing, plasticine, role-play, and learning manners.  There are so many helpful activities! Thank you to all the teachers!"

Fortunately, just before the sanctions hit Russia, a large tranche of your donations was transferred to us, and so we keep working.  At present we are exploring all legal avenues to ensure donations reach our projects and we will keep you posted on our progress.  

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Our Club got back together in September and we have been welcoming back old friends and getting to know new families.  Angela and Adriana are new to our Club, and it was a great joy to celebrate Adriana's first birthday with her last week.  The children and parents made a birthday card together for her and, of course, we had a cake.

Adriana is a very positive girl.  She explores her surroundings with interest, examines the toys carefully and plays with them.  She approaches other children, watches them play and imitates them.

We are very impressed by her mother, Angela, who is also hearing impaired.  They have very good communication between them.  Angela has taught Adriana various signs (Mum, Dad, eat, drink, wash hands, ask, refuse).  She has really encouraged Adriana to communicate in the ways open to her at the moment, and this spills over into her communication with other adults and children.  She is full of smiles and gestures.

In Russia, sign language has very little official support and is not taught in schools for the deaf.  What official training is available is often very out-dated and not in touch with how the deaf community actually communicate.  We have groups for hearing and deaf parents and we encourage all kinds of communication.  We see how using signs can bring children and parents closer together and smooth the path in every day life.  

Svetlana studies sign language in a different group at our Early Intervention Institute.  Her son is 15 now.  She tells her story of trying to get him the education and help he needed.  Only diagnosed aged 5, she was then told that if he learned to sign, he wouldn't learn to talk.  It wasn't until a teacher joined the school and set up a group to teach parents how to sign that they had their breakthrough.  Svetlana says, "When I was able to tell my son the first fairy tale in our life in sign language, he hugged and kissed me, and I cried."

She goes on, "There is another aspect of the problem. When a deaf or deaf child is born in a family where parents themselves have hearing disorders, it is perceived as normal. Deaf people do not consider themselves disabled. It's just people talking a different language. Deaf children in such families begin to speak even before hearing. From here on - timely and normal development delays. Such little ones, who come to the first grade, remember everything quickly and quickly and learn easier. Having a deaf child in a hearing family is a huge stress. The natural first human reaction is denial, looking for possible solutions. Psychologists should connect here and work with parents, because the whole future fate of the child depends on the behavior of the parents. But parents are left alone with their grief, which, I know for myself and many acquaintances, breaks a person, sometimes irreparably."

Sometimes we need to hear other people's bad experiences, to remember how special the Club we have created is.  Working with our colleagues to encourage early diagnosis and early support for children and parents pays dividends throughout their childhood and beyond.  Signing, Cochlear Implants, speech.  These are all means to an end: communication.  Where parents are struggling we can give them the tools to communicate with their children and help them develop.  Above all, no parent is left alone.  If their child's diagnosis leaves them grief-stricken, we are able to pick them up and show them the wonderful potential their child has.

Thank you for being with us through 2021.  We very much appreciate all the donations, which mean we can support Angela and Adriana and other families living with impaired hearing.  We wish you all a very happy New Year.

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I do hope you have been enjoying your summer.  We have been taking a break, but we'll be restarting our sessions for deaf children and their families soon.  In the meantime, we wanted to tell you about a little girl who was making great progress before we broke up.

Milana is two and a half and she started coming to our Club in the spring. She’s a good example of how we help deaf children in their whole development. Families and children with deaf children often find it difficult to take part in mainstream children’s activities, so it’s vital we look at the child’s needs as a whole, and don’t just focus on their hearing.

Until she came to our Club, Milana was having individual sessions at the Centre for the Deaf. Her parents noticed that she was having difficulty concentrating and sitting still. She would easily get distracted and start running around at the sessions. This was also happening at home and her behaviour was starting to worry her parents.   

Milana’s first few sessions at our Club weren’t easy. However, after a while, Milana started to watch the other children, if only for a little while. We suggested various games and activities, which could help Milana to learn to watch, repeat various actions. All of these could be used at home as part of everyday life. We discussed with her parents, who are also deaf, how to help Milana to learn various skills and habits both at the Club and at home.

We found out that Milana loves drawing and plasticine. She particularly loves drawing and will draw for a long time without running around. She watches how the other children draw and tries to copy them. We can use this interest to help her improve her concentration. After a while, we and Milana’s parents noticed small, but significant improvements in Milana’s behaviour. We are sure that soon she will learn new skills and habits. She has wonderful parents: both mum and dad are kind, attentive and caring! Together we are a great team.

We look forward to seeing Milana very soon, and to meeting the new families who will join our Club.  Thank you once again to all of you who contribute to our Club.  Our parents value our relaxed, family-centred style.  Without us they would have nowhere to turn with their everyday concerns, and small issues could become big ones.

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It is always a joy to tell you about the children and their parents who come to our Club! Each of them brings delight and plenty of surprises.  During our meetings we observe amazing changes and developments in the children.  They learn to play with other children, gain new habits and skills, and start to remember and repeat actions that they observe during our meetings.  They dance to music, say their first sounds, syllables and short words, use simple signs, or mimic other children and adults.

One of these wonderful children is Miroslav, or Mirosha, as we call him.  Mirosha has a brother who also has impaired hearing, as well as a sister.  His parents are also deaf.  Mirosha is 18 months old.  He is an attentive, curious and positive little boy.  He really actively explores our room, looks at all the different toys and loves to play with balls.  He goes up to various children, looks at what they are doing and tries to copy them.  At one of our meetings he came with his brother and sister.  We saw what a friendly family they are.  Lev and Masha understand Mirosha very well.  They play with him and help him if he needs it.  His mum is very supportive to the other parents too and has plenty of tips to share about every day life with a hearing impaired child.

Parents with children who don't have special needs can take it for granted that their child will be able to play with other children, or at least they could until the pandemic.  For parents with deaf children, it isn't so easy to find a space where they are welcomed and supported.  Communication and the specifics of caring for a hearing impaired child is just one part of what our Club offers.  Just being together boosts the children's development in so many different ways. 

We continue to meet for now, but our families are very sad when they can't come because they are unwell (obviously we are very careful at the moment).  We continue to support our parents on WhatsApp, whether they can come to meetings or not.  We are also sharing little videos with our parents to encourage them to continue our activities at home.  

Thank you for helping us keep going through this last year.  We and our families are very grateful to you.

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St Gregory's Foundation

Location: Hampton Wick, Surrey - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SaintGregsFound
Project Leader:
Julia Ashmore
Hampton Wick, Surrey United Kingdom
$18,415 raised of $22,660 goal
256 donations
$4,245 to go
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