Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Deafblind music teacher honoured

Deafblind pianist Orla O'Sullivan pictured with her son John Amedeus at the Alexander Hotel in Dublin

A deafblind music teacher who developed a unique method of teaching others has been recognised for her inspirational work.

For the last 20 years, Orla O'Sullivan, from Frankfield in Cork, has taught scores of students, from beginners up to diploma level.

Ms O'Sullivan, who started teaching deaf children at a local primary school in the mid 1990, now uses a purpose-built classroom in her home for hearing and non-hearing pupils.

She believes all schoolchildren should be given the option to learn music, regardless of disability.

Ms O'Sullivan said: "I teach music in a standard, normal way. The difference is in how I prepare. I memorise everything, even the questions that are normally asked by students at the various levels. With my hearing aids on and with close lip reading I can usually make out what is being said. As regards the music, again, with my hearing aids on, I can hear/feel some of the notes. The notes I cannot hear, I hear in my imagination. As regards sight, what I see is normal for me. I can only imagine what a person with perfect vision can see."

Ms O'Sullivan was among nine people with hearing loss commended at the Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards in the Alexandra Hotel in Dublin.

The workplace award winner was left profoundly deaf and vision impaired when given a drug after she contracted double pneumonia at six weeks old.

She said her mother noticed that, as a young baby, she reacted to certain kinds of music, including vibrations from piano keys. After her first music lesson at six, she spent most of her childhood playtime practising on her piano. Ms O'Sullivan revealed teaching music to deaf pupils is much more difficult and demanding for the teacher and the pupil, but as a deafblind teacher she feels she is the best qualified to do it.

The youngest winner, nine-year-old Marcus Conroy, got the day off from Glanduff National School in Kiltoom, Roscommon, to collect his youth award for his involvement in a range of activities and winning medals in judo, football and swimming.

Proud mother Sharon said the youngster never lets his high frequency deafness hold him back. "He has gone through so much and battled through so much," she said. " He doesn't let anything hold him back. He is always in the middle of playing with everyone and doesn't let anything deter him."

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