School for the deaf marks 60 years
Published Saturday, April 23, 2011 6:25PM EDT
MONTREAL - Sixty years after the doors of the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf opened its doors, parents still have the same goals for their children: to help them learn to hear and speak.
The Westmount school was inaugurated in 1950 by five parents who wanted to help their hearing-impaired children.
Today, it remains a centre for learning, care and support, said mother Siobhan Babkine.
"It's rather shocking for a parent to find out this information so you have all the support necessary," she said.
The support group has been a boon to both students and parents, said mother Nancy Mcharg.
"That feeling of aloneness is completely removed," she explained. "We're able to share in the difficulties and share in the joys."
The care goes beyond the walls of the school - therapists making home visits to help moms become teachers.
"(We teach them) how to stimulate language, how to get them to talk and of course the first step is listening," said speech therapist Zinta Mateus.
The school caters to more than 160 children of varying ages, and varying degrees of hearing loss. While development and integration are priorities, school officials are advocates of a universal newborn screening program.
The Quebec government announced it would implement the program last year, but it has yet to happen.
"You don't want to waste any time. The brain needs to be stimulated and the ears are just the pathways into the brain. Every month, every year, that you're missing auditory information, is a year that you're not going to get back," said principal Martha Perusse.
Most students at the school have a cochlear implant, a device implanted in the ear to provide sound to the deaf.
The implant provides an auditory connection to the world, one that didn't exist when the school opened.
"This cochlear implant has changed the world of hearing impaired children forever," said.
"Every child that has hearing loss can have access to sound in this day and age."
That access to sound now leads to language, and a more fulfilling life, said one mother.
"Before the program, I had the impression that he lived in his own world because he didn't want to play. He was not interested in anything," said mother Norma Figueroa of he three-year-old son Alejandro.
"He's a different child. He shows interest in things; he's excited, he's more expressive. He feels happy, I think."