"Having started learning piano when I was four, I find it easier to play music in a quiet environment than to listen to human speech," says HKUST Engineering freshman, Bosco YUNG. Despite his profound hearing loss, Bosco is not only an outstanding student, but also a Grade 8 pianist. “Physical disability should never be a barrier to success. With unwavering determination, anyone can overcome obstacles.”
Born with the most serious level of hearing impairment, Bosco's auditory world is one of near-complete silence. "Without my hearing aids, I can't even hear a plane taking off!" he says. Thankfully, hearing aids and lip-reading have enabled Bosco to learn how to both understand speech and communicate clearly. Most remarkably of all, Bosco’s extraordinary resilience enabled him to achieve Grade 8 in piano while he was a Form 2 student, and garnered him the Hong Kong Outstanding Teens Award, eventually paving the way for his successful admission to university.
Physical disability should never be a barrier to success. With unwavering determination, anyone can overcome obstacles.
“My choice of HKUST was spurred by not only the opportunity to study for an extended major in Artificial Intelligence, but also the University’s extensive support for students with special educational needs (SEN). I still recall during my interview at HKUST last year, the interviewer asked if he could take off his mask to aid my lip-reading and I said yes. This thoughtful move left a lasting impression on me.”
HKUST is simply SENtastic
Bosco’s first semester took place at a time when COVID lockdowns meant mask wearing was still mandatory. To ensure he could continue to read his teachers’ lips, HKUST provided him with transparent masks for each class he attended. "In addition to asking them to wear the special masks, I would ask teachers to speak into a specially designed wireless microphone (Roger Mic), which directly transmitted audio signals to my hearing aids.”
To ensure he can read lips more accurately, Bosco always sits in the front row during classes. “As connecting with others is vitally important, I always make friends with my classmates. That way, if I am uncertain about what the teacher is saying I can always ask someone for clarification,” he adds wittily.
Bosco is very appreciative of the consideration teachers at HKUST show him. “Suffering from a mild hearing impairment herself, one of my common core professors both empathizes with my needs and provides me with exceptional support." He also extends his heartfelt gratitude to the SEN Support Team of the HKUST Counseling and Wellness Center. "My SEN advisor is very patient and consistently goes the extra mile to help me overcome any obstacles I may encounter.”
Meet nine SENtastic faculty and staff members
In academic year 2021-22, HKUST hosted over 150 students with SEN. To recognize the exceptional care and commitment our faculty and staff members extend to their academic charges, our Counseling and Wellness Center has just hosted its inaugural SENtastic Staff Awards. Three of the nine recipients who received this prestigious accolade came from the Center for Language Education (CLE). Amongst them was Senior Lecturer Melissa MEGAN.
“As an English teacher, I am responsible for not only teaching but also nurturing students’ whole-person development and well-being,” says Melissa. Having taught at HKUST for 24 years, she believes that CLE's courses’ small class sizes play a vital role in creating the intimate learning atmosphere needed to achieve this goal. Such closeness also makes it easier for students to develop stronger relationships with both themselves and their teachers.
Boosting SEN students’ confidence levels
For Melissa, the most challenging aspects of meeting the unique needs of students with SEN is encouraging them to develop the new competencies they need to move beyond their comfort zones. “One of my SEN students was reluctant to join class discussions. To boost his confidence, I arranged for him to discuss his ideas with an Instructional Assistant before presenting them to his classmates.”
In addition to students with SEN, Melissa also works with youngsters who are overwhelmed by stress or experiencing emotional difficulties. Her advice? “Never be afraid to talk to others as it can be helpful to know that others are likely to have gone through similar experiences. Afterall, we must remember that what makes us human is to be among humans.”