The Speech & Signing Therapy Project
in conjunction with CANFRO’s partner, CORAL
The Oaxaca Centre for the Rehabilitation of Hearing and Speech (CORAL) currently employs two full-time therapists, as well as a preschool teacher (who also does individual therapy in the afternoons) and two sign language teachers. Victorina – or “Maestra Vicky” as she is known to her students and their parents – is one of the two therapists and has been working at CORAL for close to ten years.
Vicky earned a degree in elementary education, followed by a certificate in Educational Psychology. Prior to working at CORAL, Vicky worked for eighteen years with children who had developmental disabilities, such as autism and Down Syndrome. She also worked for some time as a speech therapist.
Vicky is an exceptionally energetic teacher with dark curly hair and lively eyes that belie her 63 years. On a typical day, she sees up to nine students for half-hour or full-hour sessions, depending on their ages. (She has had students who range in age from eight months to thirty-plus years.) Vicky works with deaf children, as well as with hearing children who have speech delays. For her deaf students, Vicky uses a strategy called “Total Communication.” This typically involves the use of sign language to develop language skills as well as listening activities to help the students make use of their residual hearing. For her hearing students who receive speech therapy, Vicky focuses on articulation exercises, practicing individual sounds and word combinations to help students learn to talk clearly and fluently. This can be a long and tedious process, but Maestra Vicky has a way of making every activity fun and keeping her students engaged for the full therapy session.
Parents, therapist and student work as a team in Maestra Vicky’s classroom. Language and speech learning is a 24-hour-a-day endeavour, so it’s critical for parents to follow through with activities of their own in order to see their children succeed. Vicky includes the parents in each therapy session, encouraging them to “be the teacher” during therapy, and offering suggestions for activities they can do at home.
The work is hard. Most of Vicky’s students, with the exception of those in the CORAL preschool, attend a regular school all day, and then have weekly or twice-weekly language therapy sessions in the afternoons. In addition to their classes with Maestra Vicky, students and parents attend individual sign language classes. After a long afternoon at CORAL, many families face a long trip home to their pueblos, a trip that can take upwards of three hours.
It’s thanks to therapists like Vicky and the CORAL team that deaf students in Oaxaca have the opportunity to succeed. CORAL provides the necessary support, both educational and emotional, for a population that would otherwise be largely unserved in Oaxaca.