Operation Santa Claus

Children born to deaf parents are taught life and speech skills in special Hong Kong course

CODA Hong Kong, through funding from Operation Santa Claus, aims to provide support for such families in need

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 2:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 7:39pm

Two-year-old Jesse Wong Wai-hang is a bundle of energy zipping around with another child of the same age in a play area at a centre. Through games and pictures, the children are being taught to recognise facial expressions in relation to emotions.

When asked if he is happy, Wong breaks into a big grin before scampering off with his play mate.

The boy is a participant in a speech and language enhancement course for children of deaf adults (CODA).

The parents of the children in this workshop are hearing-impaired. They hope their little ones, who can hear but are being brought up in a household without speech, are able to communicate with people effectively when they get older.

Project organisers at CODA Hong Kong, an NGO established in 2013, said they sought to support deaf families and their children by empowering them to face challenges in the hearing community.

Instructors address the children’s emotional, social and language development, as well as their identity and family issues.

Cindy Chan Kai-yee, founder of the organisation, said they planned to launch a “Shall We Talk” programme to help more children.

The project provides speech and language training for 100 children of deaf adults with funding from Operation Santa Claus, a joint charity campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Through small group games, storytelling and reading, the children, aged between two and 12, learn to communicate with other people. The programme also provides support for their hearing-impaired parents through workshops and counselling.

Bob Wong Ching-hoi, Jesse’s father, said he worried about his son’s social development the moment the boy was born.

“My wife and I don’t speak the oral language well. How can we teach Jesse to speak? We also worry he wouldn’t be able to socialise with others,” the older Wong said through a sign language interpreter.

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The father said he learned some new communication skills at CODA Hong Kong, which came in handy when he was helping Jesse with homework.

Cindy Chan, also a child of deaf parents, said many of her peers could speak both an oral and a sign language, but they also faced challenges as they were required to help their parents navigate a hearing world.

It was difficult for hearing-impaired parents to look after their children because they could not hear what their young ones were talking about, she said.

“I hope the community can learn more about the unique needs of children of deaf adults in our seminars and other activities,” Chan said. “I hope these children will be able to get the care and support they need.”