Flown the Nest

Sarasu was born with severe hearing impairment in 1998. When Sarasu was 18 months old her mother brought her to us because she had noticed that her daughter did not respond to sounds and did not start talking. The audiometric tests confirmed that she is hearing impaired and we helped purchase her first hearing aids as well as the moulds which needed to be specially shaped according to her ears. These moulds needed to be replaced each time her ears grew bigger. After several months the family situation worsened. Sarasu’s father was drinking more and her mother needed to go to work to provide for the family. Meanwhile her younger sister was born. Therefore we decided to try paying Sarasu’s mother for each day she came to us with Sarasu for speech-therapy. This worked out very well for some time. Sarasu received daily sessions with Selvi and some sessions with a professional speech-therapist from outside. Within a few months Sarasu acquired all the sounds necessary to speak Tamil. At that point, we helped to send her to a special school in Pondicherry with the idea of providing her with a better future. Unfortunately her father then committed suicide and her mother asked us for help to admit Sarasu to a hostel as she did not see a better option at that time. One year later, it became clear that Sarasu was not allowed to wear her hearing aids at the hostel and that she received no training. We took Sarasu back at her mother’s request. But Sarasu had lost precious time – she could not speak anymore and the training had to be started all over again.  Also she had become quite restless and unfocused. The family were living in a tiny hut together with her grandparents, so with the help of a kind person from Auroville it became possible to provide a small house for them. Steadily Sarasu began progressing over time. She got more focused and is now able to read and write Tamil. In Maths she is able to do multiplication. Sarasu became a smart teenager with a strong will. Over a period of two years she was gradually integrated into the Life Education Centre (LEC), where she received training in handicrafts and tailoring. Sarasu has since left Deepam, got married and had a child. Alongside being a mother, she also earns money through tailoring work.

Nishant was born in 1999 with Cerebral Palsy (spasticity of the muscles). He lives with his grandmother. When Nishant was five years old his grandmother brought him to Deepam three times a week for intensive physiotherapy until he was able to walk short distances, first with the help of calipers, later without appliances. The spasticity of his leg muscles is severe – therefore his walking does not look very elegant and he needs to continue with specific physiotherapy exercises. Nishant followed mainstream schooling for many years, but as he is a slow learner and often inattentive, he did not pass the exams. From 2012 Nishant attended the day-care programme at Deepam where we provided him with physiotherapy and basic education in individual sessions. Previously, there had been many complaints about Nishant’s motivation and progress, however over time Nishant became more confident and received a lot of praise and recognition for his efforts. Nishant also did some vocational training, especially computer class and showed an interest in pursuing this as a career. During COVID-19 lockdown, Nishant chose to leave Deepam and do his 10th standard certificate, which he passed. He is currently exploring what area of work he would like to do.

Vinoth was born in 2008. He was referred to us in 2012 because he was not talking, he expressed his needs through gestures only. His mother reported that Vinoth could have lost his hearing during a heavy thunder storm when he was three years old. This did not sound convincing to us, especially after we found out that his mother took pills to attempt suicide when she was five months pregnant with Vinoth. The audiometry report confirmed a profound hearing impairment. Vinoth came regularly for speech therapy for some time. Learning to speak with the help of hearing aids is a long process. In the beginning he was very shy and refused to make eye contact and hardly opened his mouth. We provided him with good hearing aids and over the years Vinoth made a lot of progress attending our day care programme and getting intensive therapy sessions.

In 2019 we advised Vinoth’s parents to send their son to a government school for hearing impaired students. There he is able to follow formal education and receive certificates which we cannot provide, with the aim for him to be able to find future employment and lead an independent life. We were sad to let sweet Vinoth go, as we knew that he received a lot more individual attention, health and social care at Deepam and could learn more life skills with us. During the extended school closure during Covid-19, Vinoth came back to Deepam for a few months while his school was closed for 20 months. It was clear to his parents and all at Deepam that his school does not support him enough and that he does better at Deepam, however when we asked the parents to decide which they wanted for Vinoth, they decided that having the school education and certificates were more important for their son into the future, so he continues to study in that school. We stay in touch with the family.

Ruthrapathi, the older brother of Nivetha who also comes to Deepam, was born with bilateral hearing loss in 2003. Their parents are related to each other and their father left to live with another woman when they were young, resulting in them being raised predominantly by their mother who is a construction site laborer. Ruthrapathi never went to school and was left on his own during the day and was severely undernourished. The first time he had a hearing aid was when he came to us when he was eight years old. Initially he came as an outpatient to learn how to use his hearing aid and for speech therapy, however he then integrated into our day care group where he learned social skills including how to wait, respect others and use the toilet. He still does not talk verbally very much as he received his hearing aid so late and seems to prefer communicating with his own sign language which those close to him can understand. Ruthrapathi has benefitted from the various activities at Deepam. He has gained some valuable skills at our vocational centre, particularly in carpentry, and he has since transitioned out of Deepam and into carpentry work. We are still supporting him with his hearing aids and reminding him to wear them.

Ranjith was born in 2002. He had delayed milestones and came to Deepam at vier years old with a diagnosis of bilateral profound hearing loss. Like many of our children, he comes from a difficult family background. His father struggles with alcoholism and is not able to adequately care for his children. His mother is a daily wage worker and therefore isn’t able to care for him and his younger brother during the day. Deepam gave him intensive speech therapy and sponsored a good quality hearing aid for him. Deepam also gave him the social care, healthy nutrition, medical support and emotional support that his parents were unable to offer him, along with a basic education. Ranjith struggled a lot with his emotions since he first came to Deepam. We provided him and his mother with counselling and support (his father never came) and now he is much better. As he got older, he started looking after the garden at Deepam and earning a small contribution for this work. He was also going to carpentry class two times a week and working at his neighbour’s carpentry workshop in the evening for a small wage. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Ranjith started working full time at the carpentry of a relative and transitioned into working life.

Vinoth was born in 1989 with a learning disability and modest hearing loss. He is fast and active but is quite skilled with his hands. First, we managed to integrate him into a pottery but it seems the work there was too hard for him so he returned to Deepam as our gardener, which he was able to do well with some supervision. Now, after about 7 years of being a gardener at Deepam, he has moved onto a gardening job outside. We wish him all the best in his future.