Breaking the Silence

August 30, 2019
Editor: Ling Xiao

Breaking the Silence

Children from the Tianjin Dolphin Hearing Disabled Children's Choir perform at the opening ceremony of the 10th National Para Games of China and the Seventh Special Olympics on Sunday in Tianjin. [For China Daily/Shi Song]

 

A Chinese choir for children with hearing difficulties aims to boost their self-confidence.

Xiao Ling, founder of the Tianjin Dolphin Hearing Disabled Children's Choir, shares her stories of success and struggles with the child members of the choir and their parents.

Xiao, 43, became a teacher for children with hearing disabilities at a school supported by the Tianjin Disabled Persons' Federation after she graduated from a teachers training college.

"Eight years after I began my career, I gave birth to a boy with hearing difficulties," Xiao says.

She then became courageous and strong. Her understanding of parents in the school made her a favorite teacher there. In addition, her son's condition made her more committed to efforts being undertaken in this field.

In 2014, she founded the choir, with support from the Tianjin Disabled Persons' Federation. She says the purpose of the choir is to boost the self-confidence of children with hearing difficulties and present their skills in society.

Breaking the Silence

Children from the Tianjin Dolphin Hearing Disabled Children's Choir perform at the opening ceremony of the 10th National Para Games of China and the Seventh Special Olympics on Sunday in Tianjin. [For China Daily/Shi Song]

 

She then invited experts to teach and help the children, and sent members to different performance venues for shows in China and abroad. Other than singing at CCTV shows, the choir participated in such events as the World Choir Contest in Sochi, Russia, in 2016, and the Johannes Brahms Choir Festival in Germany, in 2017.

The choir of 28 members — all from Tianjin, aged from 5 to 15, including her son — performed at the opening ceremony of the 10th National Para Games of China and the Seventh Special Olympics on Sunday, twin events with a common opening ceremony, according to the organizers.

"The children could sing a narrow range of tunes, but they tried their best to present the songs to the audience," Xiao says.

During the event, the choir sang two songs, Big Sky and You Can, I Can, both composed with their condition in mind.

Some of the children simulated the movement of their teachers' mouths while singing.

"I saw some cry as it was hard for them to sing," says Meng Ke, director of the opening ceremony.

Xiao says hearing-impaired children can't hear different sounds and with little interaction in their silent world, their vocal cords also decay with time.

Breaking the Silence

Children from the Tianjin Dolphin Hearing Disabled Children's Choir perform at the opening ceremony of the 10th National Para Games of China and the Seventh Special Olympics on Sunday in Tianjin. [For China Daily/Shi Song]

 

"But science can change their situation. Supported by a cochlear implant (an electronic device surgically placed in the cochlea), they can get signals from others and reply to help the movement of their vocal cords and they can even sing," she adds.

Many children have recovered from their condition with such help in primary schools exclusively for them, and have entered middle school along with their teenage peers who can hear normally.

"But I found that many of them face difficulties in middle school because they lack self-confidence, and the care from teachers in normal schools isn't similar to that given in the special primary schools."

Xiao says these were reasons why she founded the choir. She hopes to give the children an equal platform with their peers in society and present their skills.

During their performance on Sunday, the parents joined their children as a part of a song. The purpose of this arrangement was to give encouragement to families, not just the children.

"Many of the families with disabled children have their own struggles. But some parents don't even allow their children to appear in front of neighbors, because of stigma attached to such conditions," Xiao says. "Many mothers blame themselves. Such an approach isn't healthy."

The choir has some 40 volunteers who help the children with their singing.

Breaking the Silence

Children from the Tianjin Dolphin Hearing Disabled Children's Choir perform at the opening ceremony of the 10th National Para Games of China and the Seventh Special Olympics on Sunday in Tianjin. [For China Daily/Shi Song]

 

Echoing Xiao, Yang Xiaoshuang, deputy head of the choir, who is a volunteer and a retired violist from the Tianjin Dance and Drama Theater, says: "I found that in many of the families there are underlying tensions between the parents and the children."

Xiao says she hopes such families cannot only change their outlook toward the condition but also help to raise awareness among their children and society at large.

To Xiao and Yang's delight, several children and their parents have shown that they are coping better after joining the choir.

A teen member of the choir, says she has become more confident and that even her English grades at school have gone up after practicing the songs in English at the choir, with most improvement in her pronunciation.

A mother who didn't want to be identified, says her daughter was diagnosed with "neural deafness" (a hearing loss) at six months old, and that the mother became desperate after learning about the condition.

"Since then I have tried different means to help my daughter, including getting a cochlear implant," she says. "The choir has helped her to learn singing, expanding her horizon and I found that my daughter has become more open-minded and sociable."

 

(Source: China Daily)

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