Oct 03, 2010 News
Margaret Williams could have had the fit of her life when a school teacher threatened to beat her son until he could talk. Her husband, Phillip, paced down to the school; he wanted to meet the teacher who would even dare.
The Williams are no ordinary parents. Of their nine children, five of their boys are deaf, and consequently, dumb.
The boys live in a world devoid of sound. But thanks largely to their mother they are making a life of their own. In their silent world, they are testimony that being handicapped does not mean the end of your life; you do not have to be condemned to a world unfit for those who are not “normal.”
Margaret Williams is simply an incredible woman, if only what she has done is to take care of her boys.
“They are my children; I love my sons,” she says, when asked how she has coped in the past 30 years or so.
Margaret, of the Patamona Amerindian tribe, was born 49-years ago to parents who lived in the Pakaraima Mountains. The family later settled at 72 Miles—the distance from the Region Seven mining community of Bartica. There, Margaret met her husband and they set out making a family.
When her second son, Rixon, was born, Margaret was quick to notice that he was not responding to her calls, but it wasn’t until he was about three-years-old that she was able to get an audiology test done at the David Rose School for the Handicapped. Rixon was deaf.
Margaret had no way of knowing that four of her other sons – Cleaveland, James, Jeremiah and Walton – would also be born without the ability to hear.
She said that at first they did respond to loud noises. For example, if they were sleeping, a sudden loud bang could get them up. But they are all now deaf.
Her sons being deaf presented its challenges to Margaret, who decided that her boys had to get an education.
From very early on, Rixon had a penchant for drawing. She would notice her eldest deaf son using the earth as his canvas to create representations of Amerindian life. Then he started drawing on paper.
Rixon went to school, but was unable to progress. However, one of his aunts, Lolita Williams, suggested that since Rixon had a passion for art, maybe he could live with her in Georgetown and perfect his skill at the Burrowes School Art.
The initial efforts failed. There was no teacher who could communicate with Rixon. He would sit at the back of the class and try to follow, but it was simply impossible. But then the school employed Shaan, a teacher who could work with Rixon.
In 2004, much to Margaret’s delight, her eldest deaf son graduated from the Art school. Rixon now works close to the mining community of Bartica, making a living of his own. His regular jobs include painting business signs.
Getting her boys through school has proved heart-rending at times for Margaret. This has mostly to do with the fact that many consider those who are deaf to also be mentally retarded.
This might have led to the situation described at the outset, involving Cleaveland, the second deaf son born to Margaret and Phillip. Cleaveland now works in the mines of Guyana with his father.
Margaret said she received priceless support from a teacher at the 72 Miles Primary School, Denise Williams, who patiently worked with some of the deaf boys to ensure they benefited from work in the classroom.
James, now 22, moved to Georgetown and attended the David Rose School for the Handicapped. Thanks to the help there, he is able to use the computer and is not to be left out on social networking site, Facebook.
“The first time I learnt to text was when I was 14-years-old. My best friend taught me,” James wrote on a piece of paper when he was asked about texting. The youngest boy, Walton, is now in school.
Surprisingly, Margaret does not know sign language, like her boys do. But she has been able to communicate with them in a way only she understands.
Even their father can’t understand the boys as much as she would, so Margaret acts as translator.
There are the times when frustration set in for this resilient woman, but that is also the case with mothers of normal children.
You might be wondering how it is that five of Margaret sons came to be born deaf. It is a question she too has asked many times over. She knows none of her relatives who are deaf and her husband does not know of any of his relatives being either.
The couple has other children. Their first son, Nixon, is not deaf and neither are their daughters Esther, Wendy and Maliyiah.
Margaret Williams does not regret one day of her life spent nurturing her deaf sons, and she wishes more persons could come to appreciate that being deaf and unable to speak does not mean a person is incapable of utilising their other senses.
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