When he was 18 months old, Sonja Van Ee discovered that her son Noah had lost his hearing.
"He started doing some strange things at home," she said. "So, we went to a doctor who said there might be a loss of hearing. And that started the way for him to diagnose.
After about five months of travel sent "everywhere" to different doctors, Noah, by then two, was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss.
"(That) means that he lives silently," said Van Ay.
Now, at the age of five, Noah is one of the 10 Saskatun pupils who are part of the Children who communicate, and they also connect in the community – an early-learning program for hearing impaired children who are pre-school children.
The classroom is in St. Theresa at Lisio School and is run by Saskatchewan Hearing and Difficult Hearing Services. The program also works in Regina through Regina Public Schools at Henry Janzen School.
The program can accommodate up to 16 students in Saskatoon and Regina, whether deaf, hearing, or even having a connection with the deaf community through a family member or close friend.
"Children born in a community who do not have access to sign language or have no understanding of what it means to be deaf – it is very easy to leave this child in isolation and exclusion," said Nairn Gillies, executive director of Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing services.
In the program, children have access to both the language of the signs and the instructions in English.
Van Ay told her son that she had first seen how granting access to language could help children grow and develop.
"We have seen his confidence improved," she said. "His little person, the more he gets the tongue, it just continues to bloom and grow – and finally we will see and know the little boy that is ours."