Four children with hearing loss joined this MOE kindergarten. Here’s what happened

Children with moderate to severe hearing loss can attend centres offering the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (Eipic), or Canossaville Preschool, which specialises in supporting children with hearing loss, or the MOE Kindergarten @ Mayflower.

Eipic centres, however, take children with various disabilities and may not have teachers who use sign language, said Barbara D’Cotta, a training manager at the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf).

Mainstream kindergartens are also an option. But she said the child’s ability to cope depends on his or her circumstances, such as degree of hearing loss, family support available and the pre-school’s ability to cater for the child’s needs.

Learning sign language guarantees the child full access to communication at the earliest possible time. There are also other modes of communication, such as assistive devices (hearing aids or cochlear implants) and use of voice, which may require speech therapy.

There are no drawbacks to exploring all these options, said D’Cotta. The different modes complement each other, and the child can use different modes in different scenarios.

SADeaf also runs a communication programme called the Little Hands Bilingual-Bicultural Programme, which provides early communication and intervention for children with hearing loss. It is not meant, however, to be a substitute for pre-school.

Its bilingual approach — whereby both Singapore Sign Language and English are taught — provides children with a choice between using either language, depending on their hearing skills, environment and what they feel more comfortable using.

Children can start on the programme from the age of two. It prepares the child to acquire Singapore Sign Language and for early reading and writing in English, which are prerequisites for the transition to pre-school.

A termly fee of S$4,000 is charged, but parents who have difficulty paying the fees are referred to SADeaf’s Community Services Department. Social workers will carry out a means test and apply for funding from other organisations.

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