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Mute child finds voice

- Voluntary mentor says sports drills did the miracle

Suresh Purty was taken by surprise when his son called him “Baba” the other day. It took the poor mason time to realise that his special child had just become more special.

Deaf and mute since birth, 12-year-old Sonaram spoke his first words, thanks to what is being touted as sports therapy by Jeevika — a voluntary organisation based in Sonari, Jamshedpur.

Jeevika founder Awtar Singh said Sonaram enrolled with them some five months ago. “He could not hear or speak and, hence, was in no position to follow our instructions. We compelled him to attend the daily drill,” Singh, also the sports director of Special Olympics Jharkhand, said.

According to Singh, jogging, strides and brisk walking helped the boy overcome his disability, even if partly.

“We call it sports therapy. Stress is laid on cardio-vascular and respiratory systems. Blood is made to feed muscles that it did not feed earlier,” said the man who boasts a first-class diploma in kinesiology and pedagogy from the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. He underwent advanced training in Germany too.

Singh maintained that now, Sonaram could understand instructions clearly and was expected to lead a normal life in about a year. “It gives me immense satisfaction to see him utter a few words today. He will surprise us all soon.”

Sonaram’s hearing ability improved after he attended Hear Care — a programme organised by Special Olympics Bharat with support from Tata Main Hospital (TMH) — on October 16 and 17.

“His ears were cleaned and he was prescribed medicines. His hearing capacity improved. Initially, he could only hear high-decibel sounds,” Singh recalled.

Sonaram won bronze in 25m freestyle at the Special Olympics National Swimming Championship held in Karnataka the same month.

Doctors, however, beg to differ. “I don’t think the boy has overcome his disabilities through sports therapy. The claim is not scientific,” said K.P. Dubey, the head of the ENT wing at TMH.

According to the doctor, Sonaram was given powerful hearing aids during the Hear Care programme and that helped him respond better.

Singh stuck to his claims. “Sonaram was not given any hearing aid nor did he undergo any speech therapy. Sonaram’s age may have played a key role in beating the odds through sports therapy,” he said.

Despite the controversy involving his son, Purty is a happy man. “It is a miracle! My boy has been hearing and speech impaired since the day he was born. I did not believe my ears when he called me ‘Baba’ not once but many times,” the resident of Sido-Kanhu slum in the steel city said.

Recounting the trauma of knowing that his son would never speak, Purty added: “My three daughters are all fine. Only Sonaram was suffering. Doctors could do nothing. Now, my child can speak. What more do I care?”