Alexander Graham Bell is best known as the inventor of telephone although he has contributed significantly to other fields of Science. His mother was deaf and young Bell learned a manual finger language to communicate with her. His father Alexander Melville Bell, was a renowned elocutionist (dealing with phonetics and pronunciation of speech). A remarkably talented man, he created ‘Visible Speech’ – a system that had unique symbolic representation of human sounds which was so powerful that it could accurately render the exact pronunciation of words in any foreign language or regional dialect. Bell was proficient in this method and often accompanied his father in demonstrations of ‘Visible Speech’ – he could accurately recite written tracts of several languages without knowing the language! His father used this method to teach the deaf how to articulate the sounds that they could not hear. This was possible because the symbols represented the position and movement of throat, tongue and lips in articulating a sound and was a visual means of teaching how to produce a sound. Bell was invited to deaf schools to teach the instructors ‘Visible Speech’ so that they could employ this method with the deaf students. Later, he went on to start his own school for the deaf called ‘School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech’ in Boston. Helen Keller was one of his many pupils! Even with several patents under his belt, personally he preferred being known as “the teacher of the deaf“! He created the institution ‘Volta Bureau’ which later evolved into Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, commonly known as AG Bell.
AG Bell is usually the first website mentioned in the flyers we receive as a parent of a newly diagnosed hearing impaired child. I had visited the website and subscribed to its email newsletter. Last year, the newsletter announced a campaign “What if you were born deaf?/What if your child was born deaf? Tell us your story“ and asked people to send short videos showing that deaf people can learn to listen and speak and do things like everybody else. I decided right away that we were participating in this! Subsequent issues of the newsletter had videos submitted for the campaign and it was amazing to see how far deaf people could go! Kids were playing sport, singing, dancing and doing things a typically hearing peer would do! There were 2 videos of 4-year-old kids – the mothers were conversing with the child. I decided to do something different with Adith. Me being on the video would be a little too heroic!
However, taking the video turned out to be more effortful than I expected. Adith would not give in to my requests or pressure but finally agreed to my offer of ice creams and chocolates after the shooting. I wanted him to read a book, ‘Where is baby’s Mommy’-(by Karen Katz) in which a child is playing hide n seek with his mom. It was a book we read when he was younger but I wanted a short, simple one for the video and thought this would be an apt one. I used to read “Is mommy in the closet?” and he would lift the flap and say “No, my red ball is in the closet” and so on. For the video, I wanted him to say both parts and hence had to do some rehearsals. It amazed me that even after several months, he could accurately recollect what was in the closet, behind the chair, under the table etc. but was in for a little surprise! He had trouble with the words “behind” and ‘under’. He would say under the shower curtain and behind the table! I spent the next 20 minutes keeping his toys in multiple places inside the house, trying to reinforce that concept. He learned it quickly but had trouble again when it came to the book! After multiple trials and few bouts of shouting (and my BP increasing with every trial), I sort of gave up. When Loveson returned from the office, I was seen slumped against the sofa exhausted and Adith fiddling with the tripod I had set up for shooting. I asked Loveson to pitch in but Adith did not seem excited about the ice cream anymore. Loveson somehow managed to get him to read again and after a few takes, we finally had a video! Trust Loveson to get things done amicably:). If you watch closely, you can see Adith looking up at me after each line, poor child!
Loveson added some images and a small portion of Adith singing rhymes during last year’s Onam celebration making it to a 2- minute video. We wanted a light background music. There was none that suited our tastes and which was also not copyrighted so Loveson composed a tune using the software ‘GarageBand’. (It is no rocket science, there are all instruments at hand – you have to add them appropriately and fine tune it to your taste. But to give due credit to Loveson, it is not something I would do!). The video is only 2 minutes but the effort was close to 2 days!
The next few days, Loveson would check AG Bell’s YouTube channel every few minutes to see if our video was published. When it was not published even after several days, we came to the conclusion that they were probably looking for kids with Cochlear Implants. And then one day, I randomly checked the channel to see our video with the description ‘uploaded 50 seconds ago”. I was the first one to watch it, in spite of Loveson’s continuous monitoring! In a couple of days it garnered more views than the previous ones (how would it not, with us watching it every now and then and reveling in it!!). It is something we would never forget in our lives!!
Here is the video for you to revel, lol; straight from AG Bell YouTube channel!! Don’t forget to watch the other inspiring videos too!