uses a method developed in Switzerland..
Four-year old Nina is quietly sitting on a chair,
looking blankly around her environment.
Teacher Erna Shagoyan, a specialist for the deaf
and dumb, steps behind her and starts shaking
a plastic box full of buttons and stones, and
Nina's face comes alive.
There is a reason why the teacher doesn't face
her impaired student. She wants the girl to rely
on communication other than lip-reading or hand
"Our goal is to develop oral speech and
the hearing of the deaf children. We use the new
Swiss methodology, that is, we don't make hand
gestures and don't look at the lips," Shagoyan
explains. "To develop the hearing ability
we speak to the child either from behind or from
the side angle."
Nina has congenital deafness. She communicates
with great difficulty. The doctor encourages her
to say something, or to dance to the beat of a
drum. Finally, the girl gains the courage to utter
the Armenian alphabet.
Shaghoyan says Nina is a very smart girl. She
is, though, one whose disability could be crippling.
Nina is one of 24 children enrolled in the Havat
Center at Children's Republic Hospital in Arabkir.
Here, children with speech problems are taught
to speak, before attending regular secondary school.
Two children entered this school session. Others
will be prepared for next September's start of
the school year.
Shaghoyan works with four children a day, spending
about 45 minutes with each child. The lessons
take place twice a week and parents are expected
to somewhat become specialists themselves if the
desired goal is to be achieved.
Tamara Manukyan is chief of the center and co-president
"When the Soviet system collapsed, children
with hearing disability were left out of the specialists'
attention," she says. "Because of low
social-economic conditions, parents were unable
to buy hearing aids".
Havat was founded in 1996 to respond to the needs
of such children. An initial donation of about
$40,000 by the Jinishian Fund a US-based charity,
enabled the center to purchase necessary diagnostic
are encouraged to not rely on face-to-face
Manukyan says that before Havat, deaf-and-dumb
children at the center - the only one in Armenia
- were deprived of help because the center's diagnostic
equipment needed repair.
Today, children from age six months and up come
to the center for evaluation. About 1,000 are
registered, but specialists say the number throughout
the republic is greater. A UNESCO and Eurasia
Fund program "Integration of Deaf Children",
started in March of this year donated money for
In addition to speech therapy, school-aged children
are also taught to use computers.
"Twelve deaf children have finished the
computer classes and continue to study computer
science university," Manukyan says. "Two
of them are future programmers, the rest are specialists
of computer design. This is extremely important.
The handicapped child has an opportunity to get
One of the main achievements of the center has
been its ability to get hearing aids for the students,
which the Ministry of Social Insurance was not
able to provide.
Since 2002, Havat is realizing a permanent project
through the donations of Diaspora Howard Karagozian,
which enables them to provide the children younger
than 14 with free "Oticon" hearing devices
According to specialists, if the diagnosis of
the children is realized by age five, development
of oral speech is possible. Otherwise everything
must depend on sign and body language.
A further part of the center's work, in conjunction
with World Education, is to carry out a project
of realization of sign-language translation of
television programs for adults and children.
Manukyan says: "The usage of the surd-translation
is the most effective method to provide with information
the 3,500 (officially registered deaf and dumb)
people who have problems with hearing".
According to the results of a Havat survey deaf
people prefer to watch the informative, medical
television programs as well as programs on children
topics. They are also interested in crime-related
Seda Martirosyan, 64, lost her hearing at age
10 and can speak enough to express the difficulties
of her disability:
"I live alone. I can't listen to the radio,
and I can't buy newspapers. "I will never
know if there is an emergency situation in the
country. And I can only guess what they talk about
Manukyan mentions that some changes have been
made in the law concerning the disabled of the
Republic of Armenia. In the past the parents had
to update the children's documents once every
two years, thus facing many difficulties.
That has changed today. Now the disability document
is given once by the age of 18.
Since April of this year Havat is advocating
constitutional changes in tax laws that would
exempt valued-added taxes for any employer whose
staff includes at least half of employees with