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February 13, 2004

Hear, hear: Dream drama by the deaf

From: Sri Lanka Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka - Feb 13, 2004

By Kishanie Fernando Once again the CEHIC children of Dalugama are making news. For the first time in Sri Lanka children declared medically to be hearing impaired will perform speaking roles when they take to stage to entertain you with a musical drama called popia and uyana (the garden of flowers). No doubt a unique event in the history of Sri Lanka Theatre.

The drama will inspire you with the huge potential of these children to perform and express like other children or maybe even better, the story of a group of children who dream about a better and more beautiful world in a world plagued by war, human greed and selfishness. They will show you that by being hearing impaired does not mean a child is backward. They will show you that they are intelligent, with a variety of talents and they will show you that they have potential to achieve great things.

The drama consisting of four performances including song and dance is written and directed by the well known film actress Damayanthi Fonseka to bring out the creative and artistic skills of these children. The drama will be staged at Elphinstone Theatre on Friday February 27 at 10.30 am and 3.30 pm and on Saturday February 28 at 3.30 pm and 6.30 pm.

CEHIC or the Centre for Education of Hearing Impaired Children is a multi religious and multi ethnic organisation situated at Dalugama in Kelaniya. The centre advocates the Auditory-Oral Method of education where the children are taught to hear and speak by using their residual hearing which is appropriately amplified by hearing aids. Babes are admitted to the Centre as soon as they are diagnosed with hearing problems. The impairments are tested, monitored and treated sometimes medically and managed educationally with great care and efficiency. Over their early years these infants grow learning to hear, lip read and speak using the various specialist techniques of auditory and oral therapy. The Centre's main objects are the integration of hearing impaired children to mainstream education and curriculum at school going age.

Conventionally many children born with hearing impairments are sent to special schools for specialized education to communicate through sign language. These children grow up with limited capabilities of listening and talking using sign language. They become a category or community by themselves, associating mainly with people of similar limitations. These communities become known as handicapped, disabled or abnormal.

CEHIC believes that such labeling is an injustice to the child. In their commitment they believe that if all hearing impaired people are trained to hear and speak, that they will have the opportunity to attain an equal place in society and be accepted as creative contributors to the development of a prosperous, peaceful and just nation.

However this schooling is not easy. It is a huge challenge to the teacher, child and to the family of such child. To the teacher however skilled he/she is but does not possess the dedication and the virtues of patience and love it becomes a difficult if not impossible task. For the parent it is a commitment involving a deep devotion and perseverance. This commitment of the family in fact is a key feature since the centre insists that one of the parents need to accompany the child daily and follow the methods of specialized teaching in class so that the learning process could be sustained at home.

The success story is that if these children are brought in at the earliest signs of hearing impairment they could be integrated with normal school children by school going age. However even after they are admitted to normal schools they have to continue their schooling after their normal school hours at CEHIC with the objective of sustaining and supporting their special needs. Even though it may seem quite an uphill task schooling or after schooling at CEHIC is quite a lot of fun as well. The CEHIC curriculum for these growing children have been designed to cover a wholistic approach drawing upon the child's creative abilities like wood carving, art, cookery, needlework and even gymnastics.

CEHIC is not merely talking theory. Its administrator Sr. Greta is proud of the achievements of her students. Some of her earliest students are today in the university following degree courses or diplomas. Others are happily married and busy bringing up their own little families. The important feature here is that these children learn to overcome their limitations and study, work, and live in one world, one with those who do not have limitations or disabilities such as theirs. Further details could be obtained from the CEHIC , Lumbini Mawatha, Dalugama Kelaniya Tel. 2910623.

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