Overcoming communication challenges one language at a time
From making up an entirely new language to learning sign, this is one family’s journey to communicating with their son who has a hearing disability
The way we communicate is the bridge that connects us to others. For Pisal and his family, this meant making up an entirely new language.
Pisal’s parents had not realized he was deaf until he was two years old. Their unique language, developed within the family, was the only way to communicate with Pisal until he was introduced to sign language in a school for children with hearing impairments at the age of four. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength – attending morning classes at a high school that teaches in sign language while encouraging the rest of his family at home to learn sign language.
In the afternoons, Pisal goes to his second school where he attends mainstream classes. Here, he can communicate with his classmates through Telegram, a mobile messaging app. The fact that Pisal’s class includes both children with and without hearing does not stop them from finding ways to interact with one another, regardless of whether they are doing schoolwork or playing football.
Pisal’s mother says their family’s communication has improved in recent years. This has made family activities like enjoying meals out, cooking, watching TV and chatting together much easier. Though the whole family has taken to learning sign language, Pisal communicates best with his nine-year-old brother.
It was only when schools closed due to COVID-19 restrictions did the challenge of communication resurface. Children with disabilities are among one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19, which includes having limited access to online or remote learning support during prolonged lockdowns and school closures.
Pisal was one of the lucky few able to continue his education with the support of a teacher who helped him learn at home for two months. His father also continued to encourage him and his brothers to do their homework during school closures.
Two years since the start of the pandemic, Pisal is happy to be back to learning and playing with his friends in school. The opportunity to interact with peers in-person is key for all children to strengthen their communication skills. For Pisal, being able to participate in mainstream afternoon classes is also an example of the school successfully integrating children with disabilities in day-to-day educational activities.
As restrictions continue to be lifted, Pisal and his family are finally feeling hopeful that things will return to how they were before.