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Mother and Daughter Work to Overcome Disability
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"My name is Zhang Bingyu. I'm 14 years old, and I am studying in Changzhou International School."

Hearing those clearly pronounced English words, few people would guess they had come from a girl born with a major hearing disability.

Much of the credit for the girl's language skills is due to her mother, Chen Hui, a resident of Nanjing, said the Nanjing-based Jinling Evening News.

Chen described the day 13 years ago when a doctor told her that her 11-month-old daughter Bingyu had a major hearing disability as the darkest moment in her life.

She fell into a deep depression, locking herself up in her room and refusing to speak to anyone. She cried constantly, and felt as though her life was utterly hopeless. Her heart ached whenever she thought about the challenges and discrimination her daughter would face because of her disability.

Even today, Chen has trouble holding back her tears when she recalled this nightmarish period.

Chen finally emerged from her depression when a friend who worked in aural rehabilitation reminded her that Bingyu might never be able to speak if she failed to start learning at the age of one.

Chen devoted all her energy to helping Bingyu understand the world through her sense of touch and sight. She labeled the different objects in their home with cards bearing the Chinese characters for those objects. She taught Bingyu to speak by having her touch the objects and then practice pronouncing the words by mimicking the shape of her mother's mouth.

However, after two-and-a-half years of instruction, Bingyu did not react to any sound. Despite her disappointment, Chen firmed her resolve to help her daughter. She knew that learning to speak could be Bingyu's chance for a more hopeful future.

Things changed magically when Bingyu was three-and-a-half years old and suddenly called out for "mum" one night. Chen was too excited to believe what she had heard. She said that night was the happiest one of her life.

Thanks to Chen's unremitting efforts, Bingyu eventually started mimicking the shape of her mother's mouth when speaking and was accepted by a local kindergarten, though she still had some difficulty in communicating with her friends.

In 1999, Bingyu became the first person in Jiangsu Province to receive an artificial cochlea implant, allowing the girl to hear.

However, the joy of that success faded when it became clear that being able to hear interfered with Bingyu's ability to speak.

Mother and daughter had to go back to the very beginning, with Chen introducing Bingyu to the sounds of the words she had learned as a girl.

Every day Chen busied herself creating all kinds of background noise by knocking on the door, turning on the TV and even flushing the toilet repeatedly. She spoke so loudly at home that she seriously injured her vocal cords and had to have two surgeries.

But her efforts paid off.

Bingyu caught up with her schoolmates and even surpassed some of them. Currently a first-grade student at Changzhou International School, she has become a model student, recognized for her ability to speak English, play piano, paint and use the computer.

In the latter half of 2002 Chen gave up her job as a cosmetics saleswoman and created a hearing rehabilitation center for deaf children.

The center has worked with more than 70 deaf children, among whom more than 20 learned to express themselves freely and were accepted by regular schools.

The media have seized on Chen's story. Their reports have inspired people from across the country whose children have hearing problems. Many people have got in touch with Chen, hoping to discuss her experiences.

(China Daily March 22, 2007)

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