Deaf Children Face Less Choice as Funds Shrink

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Udani Samarasekera

LEARNING sign language and attending special needs schools may soon be the only options left for deaf children in the Western Cape.

The only centre in the region that teaches deaf children to speak, with the aim of getting them into mainstream school, has reached full capacity, and is short of funds to expand.

Set up in 1973, the Carel du Toit Centre at Tygerberg Hospital uses a specially designed intensive language programme that teaches deaf children through listening. A big emphasis is placed on the development of listening skills through maximal use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.

A total of 191 children, aged from a few weeks to 10 years, attend the centre. "The youngest child to be fitted with hearing aids and enrolled in our programme was three weeks old," said principal Ruth Borne. "The language barrier can be overcome if intervention begins early, otherwise the child is permanently and severely disabled," she explained.

From the age of three years, children at the centre attend a pre-school programme daily. Both English and Afrikaans are taught. …