Optimism for deaf children

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 March, 1995, 12:00am

DEAF children who obtain treatment and language therapy before the age of three have a 96 per cent chance of developing full communication skills, according to a leading rehabilitation centre.

Workers at the Suen Mei Speech and Hearing Centre For the Deaf in Mei Foo claim that nearly all young children with hearing disabilities can be taught to communicate by a combination of lip reading, speech and auditory training.

The director of the centre, Bessie Pang Lau Seung-man said the age at which training starts was 'crucial'.

'The ages nought to three are the crucial age for language development,' she said. 'If you miss these most sensitive years for language development, the process is going to be a lot slower.

'Our experience has shown that, after two years of training, even the profoundly deaf children can lip read about 1,000 words and fulfil our requirement of integrating into kindergarten.' The Suen Mei centre has been operating since 1981, taking an average of 50 pupils each year for intensive therapy five days a week.

In that time more than 70 young children have obtained the communication skills necessary to allow them to go on to participate in the normal school system.

Almost all these children were under three and had intensive and constant support from their parents, as well as being of average intelligence and without any other disability.

An extension at the Suen Mei Centre was opened yesterday, which is expected to increase to 65 the number of places available by October this year.