“Hey? What’s happening there?!” asks Debadinna, with the innate curiosity of a playful 9-year old.
“Your friends are calling you to play, so hurry up and get ready”, his mother says.
Sounds like a regular conversation between a mother and son, doesn’t it? And it is! Except that Debadinna has 70% hearing impairment and can only hear very faint sounds, like soft whispers.
Debadinna lives in Tinna Colony, Pandua (Rural West Bengal), in a large joint family including his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. When he was a baby, his retired grandfather played with him a lot and noticed that he did not respond like the other grandchildren did. He insisted something was wrong, but as Debadinna looked just fine, and was a happy, active baby, no one took the old man seriously.
His mother had German measles in her 3rd month of pregnancy. The doctors cautioned that there could be some problems, but when Debadinna was born looking “normal”, the family soon forgot the Doctor’s warning. At age 1, when it was apparent that Debadinna was not responding to specific calls or claps, the painful truth dawned on them that something could be wrong. They went to an ENT doctor who referred them to a special school for the deaf.
From here, the runaround began. The school sent them to a nearby Medical College & Hospital for an audio test. From there they were referred to National Institute of Hearing Handicapped (NIHH), Bon Hooghly – 2.5 hours away. At NIHH the necessary tests were done and at age 3, Debadinna finally got a hearing aid. He started attending a local special school, but his father was unhappy with the services. In 2014, Debadinna eventually found his way to VAANI – He was already 8 years old.
At the VAANI-PPKS Sadhan Centre in Pandua, Debadinna was assessed on cognitive, emotional and social parameters. An annual plan was developed to take his communication training and school education forward – specific to his individual needs. “I take him to the VAANI Centre”, says Debadinna’s father, “he has an hour long class from 11-12 in the morning. It is a one-to-one session with the teacher. I sit next to him and watch how the teacher teaches my son”
“I observe closely how the teacher interacts with my son, what strategies he uses to make him communicate and to make him read and write. Along with my son, I am also getting trained. When we come home, I am able to follow up the lessons with my son so that his learning is even stronger. We could never have dreamed of such a service in our small, interior village. It is only because of VAANI that this has been possible.”
“When I found out that my child would never be able to speak, it broke my heart. It crushed the whole family. He was such a cheerful baby. Now he would be destined for a life of solitude with no way to communicate”, says Debadinna’s mother. “But since he has been going to the VAANI Sadhan Centre, he has learnt so many words, and makes himself clearly understood. He has a big circle of friends and they all play happily together”.
Debadinna’s father has a small clothes store in the village, and conducts tuitions alongside for some extra income. His brothers also have menial employment in the village. His mother and aunts manage the home and take care of the aging grandparents. The family household income is about Rs. 20,000 per month, for a family of 15.
Debadinna and his family are charged no fees for services received at VAANI.