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She has dedicated her life to adding sound to the life of the hearing-impaired

Updated: 2024-05-04 10:06 ( China Daily )
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Liu Lingli teaches hearing-impaired children in an outdoor class.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Liu Lingli has been a teacher for hearing-impaired children for 33 years, and thanks to her help and dedication, more than 20 of the over 80 students she has taught have received higher education.

Liu, 51, was born in Hengyang, Hunan province, in 1973. And her first interaction with people with disability was with one of her neighbors, surnamed Wang. Liu was a child then.

One day in the winter, when Liu was playing in her house, Wang used sign language to communicate with her. But Liu could not understand what she was trying to say. It was Wang's husband who told Liu that she wanted to make her a scarf.

"Even as a child, I was moved by her kind gesture, and thought it would be great if she could speak," Liu said. The incident left an indelible mark on Liu. At the age of 14, she decided to major in teaching hearing-impaired students, and enrolled in Nanjing Normal University of Special Education. After four years, she graduated with a secondary vocational degree and became a teacher at Hengyang Normal School of Special Education, and taught Chinese language to first graders.

She remembers clearly that there were 14 students in her class, from 6 to 12 years old, with several of them being intellectually challenged. "Some of the students had snot on their face; some even wet their pants. I was at a loss and thought about quitting," she said. She then thought about her neighbor Mrs Wang and the pain on her face when she could not make people understand what she was trying to say. That made her determined to pursue "special education".

Although she was only 18 at the time, she treated the students as her children, and practiced sign language in front of the mirror for one to two hours every day till she mastered it. With great care and patience, she also taught the students how to wash their face and clothes, and clip their nails, gradually becoming the "mother" of the students.

In 2005, at the age of 32, Liu gave birth to her own child. But the child, a boy, was diagnosed with congenital hearing impairment when he was seven months old. Concerned that she would need time to overcome the shock, Liu's colleagues requested her to take a break from teaching and take her son to Changsha, capital of Hunan province, for treatment. But she refused to do so, partly because such treatments are a long-drawn process.

Instead, she began teaching a new class, because she didn't want to leave the students alone, and decided to provide therapy for the child herself after work.

After becoming the mother of a child with hearing impairment, Liu said she could better understand the difficulty families with a special child face. "I felt that I was not doing enough for the children I teach. I should put more efforts to help them better integrate into society," she said.

"If the children receive early training and therapy, they could probably speak and thus have a better future." So she started auditory and aural rehabilitation training for her son after work. She self-taught herself the methods of imparting such training. And to help her students speak, she put her lips against their hand to let them feel the movement of the lips and the flow of the air, while allowing the students to put their hand around her neck and on her nose so they could feel the vibration of the vocal cords.

Apart from teaching her class together, she also has one-on-one sessions with each student for 20 minutes every day. As a result, she usually has a sore throat at the end of the day and her voice becomes hoarse.

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