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November 2, 2004

More cash plea to help deaf children

From: Gulf Daily News - Manama,Bahrain - Nov 2, 2004



MORE cash is needed to support a kindergarten which is helping hearing-impaired children to lead normal lives.

The kindergarten at the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Hearing and Speech Development Centre strives to enable every hearing impaired child to enter a mainstream school,

But to be able to offer its services the centre relies heavily on donations.

At present the centre is in desperate need of a new playground, classroom supplies and storage facilities, as well as sponsorship for children whose families are unable to meet the tuition fees.

The kindergarten needs a playground.

There is an area with a few swings and a see-saw, but the ground is full of rocks and sand and it is unsafe for children to play on, said speech consultant Dr Omar Al Sharif.

The centre is looking for companies to revamp the playground and to make it a green and suitable environment for children.

"We also need support for school materials such as toys, books, pencils and Arabic storybooks. We need drawers as the children have nowhere to store their belongings and we need cupboards for their bags," said Dr Al Sharif.

"Parents only pay symbolic fees as many people have unfortunate circumstances so we don't want to put the burden on them."

The school, which was established in September 2001, caters for 20 three-to-six-year-olds with severe-to-moderate hearing impairment.

There are 15 children waiting to join the kindergarten and the school is hoping to add two more teachers to its staff next September, to enable it to accept more children at a younger age, but this will require extra funds.

At the school children are taught skills in reading, writing, and drawing, with a special emphasis on hearing and speaking.

The main aim of the kindergarten is to help prepare hearing impaired children for entry into mainstream schools.

"We need to educate society to let them know that there is no alternative for any hearing impaired child other than to be mainstreamed," said centre director Dr Fouad Shehab.

"If they are mainstreamed they are not dependent throughout their life and they can participate in the development of the country.

"Our centre has been able to integrate 30 hearing impaired children into mainstream schools."

The classes are conducted solely in Arabic, but from next September the kindergarten will introduce English into the classroom.

"We are introducing English as 95 per cent of the language of the computer is English, so without this language they won't be able to use this medium to be connected with the whole world. We believe children should develop all skills," said Dr Shehab.

"Our aim is to take the child from the world of silence to the world of speaking and take them from being a liability to being productive.

"We are a non-profit organisation, we only charge 15 to 20pc of the real cost of running the centre, so we need help from all societies for this noble cause."

The centre is grateful to the organisations supporting it, including Batelco, which is donating an FM system for two of the classrooms, which will enable each child to hear what the teacher is saying through headsets.

"We thank Batelco for donating an FM system, it's a wonderful donation and will upgrade our teaching and we will have wonderful results," said Dr Shehab.

"Every hearing impaired child has some residual hearing so through this system we will try to make him use the residual hearing so they don't just rely on lip reading."

He said that the system would be installed by the end of November.

Other donations are coming from High Tech, who is providing the centre with free computer services and Security and Investment Company, which is donating six hearing aids ranging between BD250 to BD350 each.

"Hearing aids are very costly and can be easily damaged," said Dr Shehab.

"If a family's income is BD200 per month and the hearing aid is BD250, it can be very difficult for them to afford them, so we try to help families by providing hearing aids.

"We don't want families to feel the economic burden through their child, so we try to make the child an asset to the family.

"We have so many children here who need hearing aids, some are outdated and need to be replaced, others haven't got any, and so we choose the poorest children to give to."

To make a donation, or to sponsor a child at the kindergarten at BD250 a month, contact the centre on 17626848.

Copyright © 2004, Gulf Daily News