Today, our children dare to tell that they have a hearing impairment

But there are still few who say that they have a hearing impairment.

- Your neighbor may have a hearing impairment without you knowing it, says Yelka Vargas De Silva, secretary of APANH's board.

Five years ago, some parents of hearing-impaired children came together to support each other. They sought knowledge about what hearing damage is and what therapy is available to stimulate hearing loss. Eventually, they formed the APANH organization.

Since then, they have fought to change the view of hearing impairment from being seen as an individual problem to instead being something that society is responsible for when it comes to meeting the needs of people with hearing impairment.

The change work is based on a three-stage rocket

APANH sees its change work as a three-stage rocket based on increased knowledge and awareness, prevention, treatment and adaptation.

APANH informs.

- Many of us parents have experience that we went to the doctor because our child does not learn to talk and that the doctors then just told us not to worry. In this way, a child can lose several years of his development. It is important that doctors have knowledge about hearing damage so that they can make the correct diagnosis at an early stage, says Roger Arratia, chairman of APANH.

When APANH in its information work began to visit the hospitals, almost no doctors knew what hearing damage is or what type of aids and treatment is needed.

Small changes make it easier to keep up with school

Even teachers and principals lack knowledge about hearing damage. APANH has therefore invited teachers to workshops in teaching methodology adapted for children with hearing impairment.

-We say that children with hearing impairment need to be able to read on their lips. That the teacher can not speak too fast or turn his head away when he or she speaks. The teacher also needs to use a lot of texts and pictures to create a more dynamic learning situation where the information is communicated in different ways. It is about making the teachers understand that with more care for these students, they will also be able to participate in teaching and learn things, says Roger Arratia.

Yelka Vargas De Silva has a son who is nine years old. He did not want to go to school because his teacher shouted at him.

Yelka Vargas De Silva.

- He was in school but he learned nothing. After his teacher participated in our workshop, it has become much better. My husband and I have talked to the other parents and they have explained to their children. It has changed a lot for our family, she says.

Today the other children are very helpful and Yelka's son can join in and play. In the classroom, he gets to write down their notes.

- We generally experience that the attitude to hearing damage has changed and that the decision-makers' knowledge has increased. The children also experience that the teachers have changed their way of teaching. Hopefully, this can eventually lead to this perspective being included in teacher education, says Roger Arratia.

By working with specialists, APANH's members have increased their knowledge about hearing damage. They have filmed their workshops and now have good information material that can be used both internally and externally.

The collaboration with HRF has meant a lot

-Almost everything we have managed to achieve is thanks to our collaboration with HRF - The Swedish Association of the Hearing Impaired, says Roger Arratia. We usually talk about the collaboration as a marriage and about the project as our common child. It is very equal. We have an idea, we share it with HRF, they come with their views, we reason and change the project until we all think it will be good, he continues with a smile.

For Yelka Vargas De Siva's son, the meeting with the members of HRF has also been important.

- It has strengthened him a lot. By studying how they behave, he has changed his view of himself. Has he understood that he can too. It has given me as a mother future hope. When we meet members of HRF who know five languages, then we understand that we do not need to limit ourselves, she says.

Yelka describes APANH as her second home. In the organization, the parents can grow together with the children. The parents can exchange experiences and gradually learn how the children perceive different situations, which makes them better at helping their children.

- I can have a hard time getting my son involved in things, but when we go to APANH it is never a problem. He always wants to come here, she says.

Jimena Gonzales Romero, project manager at APANH, agrees.

- The most important thing is that our children have an identity as hearing impaired. My daughter writes in her school books: My name is Sofia and I am hearing impaired. And that's good, she's much more self-respecting today and has become more confident in herself. That development is very much due to the meeting with the members of HRF, she says.

At APANH, children and young people learn their rights and dare to explain their needs. For example, it could be about telling people they meet in public environments that they must be facing them when they speak, that they must speak louder and slower. To ask for something like that requires courage and security.

- The vast majority react very positively when we dare to explain. And it is important that we take the opportunity to inform about what hearing loss is. In this way, we increase the public's knowledge, says Joaquin Herbas Miranda, board member of APANH.

The members of APANH are positive about the future

APANH has many plans for the future. Today, the organization is located in three of Bolivia's nine regions. The goal is for the organization to be present in all regions.

Modern technology offers many opportunities for people with disabilities. APANH plans to arrange film workshops where members can learn to communicate messages with both images, sound, sign language and text.

- In the future, we hope to be able to start a company where our members can work with subtitling films and include sign language, Roger Arratia concludes.

Text and image: Lina Jakobsson

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