Aurally challenged boy from Koyilandy wins award instituted by U.S. President

A 10-year-old boy from Koyilandy has stubbornly braved his 90 per cent hearing impairment to excel in his studies and draw praise from US President Barack Obama.

A letter of praise from Mr. Obama to the boy, Yussuf Batha, who won this year’s ‘Outstanding Academic Achievement Award’ instituted by the President said: “I am proud of you for pushing yourself academically, and I am counting on you to continue to set a good example and help others whenever you have the opportunity.” Yussuf studies at the Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) in St. Louis, Missouri, in the USA. Suggesting that “no dream will be beyond reach” Mr. Obama wanted him to “stay focused” and set eyes on “new horizons” as he continues with studies.

The eldest son of Yacoob Hassan and Mariyam, Yusuf arrived in the US in 2006 at the end of his determined father’s search for “the best training” for his hearing impaired child. Mr. Yacoob, who does part-time jobs in the US, narrated to The Hindu over phone from Missouri how his child coped with the initial struggles with the help of a group of dedicated people at the CID.

Despair dawns

Yusuf was born when Yacoob, hailing from a middle class family in Kozhikode, was working for an airline in Dubai. The couple’s joy soon gave way to despair when tests confirmed their fears. Then began their long journey to find the right care for their son. “We searched the Internet and learned that in the US, aurally challenged children could be taught to listen and to talk without surgery,” he said.

That’s how Yacoob and his family landed in the CID, where they were introduced to a local agency that would financially support Yusuf’s education. “It offered more than what we dreamt possible for Yusuf,” he said. But, more troubles were in store for the couple. Four other children were born to them, and three of them, including a girl, were diagnosed with hearing problems.

Four of his five children are presently studying at CID. It was only recently that Mariyam joined the family with young Hassan, the couple’s only child with normal hearing. Yacoob was playing the role single parent till then.

The President’s award for Yusuf is an award for Yacoob’s resolve too. He would modestly say, “It’s an inspiration to all those children, born with a hearing disability and fighting it.”

Families with aurally challenged children, he says, should not give up hope. “There are many places like St. Louis where people dedicate their lives to helping children with hearing impairment.” For information about a collective of such institutions check www.oraldeafed.org.

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