For the last week, children at Alphabet School in Chennai have been learning about deafblindness. They began by watching… can you guess? Of course! The Miracle Worker. Intrigued, they badgered their teachers to tell them more. Wasn’t it lucky that their art teacher is also our artist in residence at Chetana Trust, devoting this year to creating adapted books for children with print disabilities?
Being deafblind awareness month, Chetana Trust began by teaching its library volunteers braille. Learning about Louis Braille and the logical braille code was fun and some learnt so fast that they could already braille their first book for the library! Kudos! Here you see Teresa and Yohann each with their creations – Teresa created Minu and her hair, an adapted version of a much loved Tulika book – she could really identify many letters and enjoy the tactile illustrations. Yohann holds his first book entirely brailled by him.
I can read braille!! Minu and her hair
The ice breaks… they start to chat
Happiness!! Braille… His first book!!
Meanwhile, at Alphabet, children are engaged in different activities every day to help them appreciate what it is to be deafblind. They play different games to notice how they use their hearing, vision, proprioception, touch and smell in different ways. They played touch and smell Bingo and guided each other blindfolded through an obstacle course using only touch. They borrowed books from Chetana to learn braille and to try to figure out how they can understand something they have never seen, just by using their hands. The older children also played a game to help them reflect on inclusion and empathy. They were paired up and one child was blindfolded. The pairs were challenged to find golden cards hidden around the rooms. They were told to work together as a team and use each other’s strengths. Some children forgot their blindfolded partner in their excitement and in their reflections, soon learned the meaning of inclusion and empathy!
The blindfold game
Finally, the day they were all waiting for. Chetana Trust Mr Pradip Sinha to join them in visiting and playing with the kids of Alphabet School. Children and teachers had spent the last two days discussing what they may want to ask him. They were thrilled to meet him and asked him many many questions – what games did he like? How could he shave?? Who was his best friend? How did he learn sign when he was also blind? Pradip’s good nature and playfulness with the children made it very easy for them to interact and soon they were all learning sign from him and signing with him, giving the interpreter very little work to do!
Everyone signs friends!!
Pradip discussed his life and attitudes, showed the children how he could access his phone and computer and taught the children how to sign and finger spell Soon they were crowding around him, including his in the games their teachers had set up for the morning. He chatted with all the children, laughing easily with them and thrilling them with his choices of name signs. At the end of the visit, the children made him a wonderful, creative, tactile and braille thank you card.
Pradip’s visit is not the end – a class at Alphabet will celebrate deafblind awareness as a month, with all their lessons and activities entwined to help them understand and celebrate this unique group of individuals.