When he was about 18 months old, Sonja Van Ee discovered her son, Noah, had some hearing loss.

“He started just doing some strange things at home,” she said. “And so we went to the doctor who said there might be some hearing loss. And that started the road to getting a diagnosis for him.”

After about a five month long journey of being sent “all over the place” to different doctors, Noah, by then two, was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss.

“(It) basically means he lived in silence,” Van Ee said.

Now five-years-old, Noah is one of 10 students in Saskatoon that are part of Children Communicating, Connecting and in Community, an early learning program for preschool-aged children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The classroom is in St. Therese of Lisieux School and is operated by Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. The program is also operating in Regina through Regina Public Schools at Henry Janzen School.

The program can accommodate up to 16 students in both Saskatoon and Regina, whether they’re deaf, hard of hearing, or even if they have a connection to the deaf community through a family member or close friend.

“Children growing up in a community that has no access to sign language or has no understanding of what it means to be deaf – it’s very easy to leave that child isolated and excluded,” said Nairn Gillies, executive director of Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.

In the program, children have access to both sign language and English instruction.

Van Ee said through her son, she’s been able to see firsthand how giving access to language can help children grow and develop.

“We have seen his confidence improve,” she said. “His little personality, the more language he gets, it just continues to blossom and grow – and we finally get to see and know the little boy who's ours.”