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My son suffered a hearing loss, how can I handle him?

Q: I am 31 years old; mother of two. My eldest son is 9 years old and studies in class 5. He has a hearing problem (not by birth) and 50 per cent hearing is lost. He wears hearing aids in both ears. The problem is that he is very sensitive and doesn't have friends. His classmates also tease him. He is very depressed as his younger sister (6 years old) has so many friends. How can I handle him?

A:Your child's partial hearing loss should not be treated as a problem. The problem is with the way his friends treat him and that can be corrected with a little help from the teacher and other adults around. If I were the teacher, I would be sure to make him feel good about himself and enhance his self esteem. Children with special needs (disability in vision, hearing or mobility) are often referred to as special children. They are special in many ways. The teacher should also be able to discuss the matter openly in the class and tell the other children to help him, rather than teasing him or treating him as different. Surely they will agree that teasing a person with a disability is not a civilized thing to do. Helping children to take a more humane and inclusive view would help them all their lives. I know a person, now in his fifties, who was spastic and attended a regular mainstream school. The kindness and attention of two teachers, which he still remembers and talks about, in turn made the other teachers and the students also treat him nicely. Children learn quickly when they see an example, especially from someone they hold in high regard. Every human being has some strengths and weaknesses; some weaknesses are more visible than others. I think that a cruel person who has no compassion or kindness has a terrible disability, but it cannot be seen by us! There are many stories about people who struggled against all odds. Vijay Amritraj, the tennis champion was a weakling as a child, but with a strong will and family support began to excel in tennis. Plan to introduce some activity to your child, in which he can do well. It could be drawing, painting or sports or anything else. Through this activity, he should feel fulfilled and appreciated. Once his confidence is built up, he will be able to do all his tasks well. Be open in talking to your neighbours and his playmates about his disability and show them how they can make it easy for him. Do things with your children at home. For example, helping you to make chappatis can become an exciting thing for the children. If you handle it with cheerfulness and a playful spirit, it makes all the difference. Even a houshold chore becomes a game! I have an American friend, now in her fifties, who lost her sight at age 9. Her mother learned Braille to teach her and helped her get over the initial hurdle. She was constantly supportive and affectionate and the girl grew up to do a masters degree in German and a Ph.D. in Music. She is married, has two children and travels around the world. The message from all these examples must be clear: the right input at the right time helps children to handle their disability and to get on with life, realizing their full potential. I know that you would be hesitant to talk to the teacher. But you should tell her about your concern regarding your sons feeling of isolation. Perhaps you could share this letter with her.


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