11-year-old Xavier has always had a keen interest in creative media, particularly photography and filmmaking. In 2019, he entered the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) Screen It competition, which recognises the next generation of filmmakers, with an important message: Bullying is not okay.
According to Xavier’s mum, Anna, who has a background in the creative arts, his interest in creative media began at an early age. “Drama is his favourite subject at school. Every year he produces a Christmas show with two of his friends which they perform for a wider group of friends. He says it must run in the family!” she says.
Recently, he has also stepped in front of the camera, taking a role in Australian feature film, Unsound, the story of two Australians at a crossroads in their lives, that premiered in cinemas in February.
Specialist Pre-school makes its mark
Xavier was also born with a hearing loss. At just five weeks of age, his family received the diagnosis. “I was a new parent, taking on all this information and I remember thinking I just wanted the best for him, for him to receive the support he needed.”
The family began receiving support from RIDBC at that time, when (then RIDBC Early Learning Co-ordinator) Alison Hawkins-Bond began teaching the family how to help Xavier use his residual hearing to learn to listen. “RIDBC has always been a rock for our family,” Anna explains.
At three years of age, Xavier started at RIDBC Rockie Woofit Preschool, an experience Anna says has been instrumental, not just in his educational journey, but in developing his sense of social justice. “Xavier has always had a strong sense of social justice, which we attribute to Rockie Woofit Preschool. The teachers there were really passionate about kindness and respect for others and it made its mark. It was a great start to his formal education.”
The whole family remember the experience so positively, and when Xavier heard that one of his teachers has a young child with hearing loss, he didn’t hesitate to recommend the preschool. “The teacher took Xavier’s recommendation and is really happy with his son’s progress. We find that we now have this very special connection with Rockie Woofit, that we are reminded of it every day.”
Screen competition fosters creative passion
Now in his final year of primary school, Xavier receives support from Sue, his RIDBC Teacher of the Deaf at his mainstream school, Reddam House. Weekly visits from Sue ensures that he receives the support and access to technologies that enable access to all parts of the school curriculum.
“Over the years, Xavier’s RIDBC teachers have assisted him to develop strategies to communicate his listening needs effectively during lessons with his teachers, helped to create social circles and educated school staff about hearing technology and all sorts of things that make it easier for Xavier to learn,” Anna says.
The school works closely with RIDBC to ensure Xavier receives the support he needs. “Reddam House and the principal, Dee Pitcairn, have been fantastic in working with RIDBC to support Xavier, it’s a great team,” says Anna.
Two years ago, Xavier’s art teacher encouraged him to enter the ACMI Screen It competition, for which he created a stop motion film that received a Special Mention. In 2019, with the theme being ‘Listen’, Xavier was keen to enter again, and he had an anti-bullying message to share.
“It was exciting because I found that I could make a film about something that I knew quite a lot about; listening and hearing and how hard it can be at school sometimes,” Xavier says.
While he has never been bullied at his school, which Anna says takes a fierce anti-bullying stance, he has experienced this lack of understanding. “There was an occasion once where a classmate took my FM (a wireless assistive hearing device that enhances the use of hearing aids and cochlear implants in noisy environments) on my way to a lesson. He started turning it on and off and it was a really horrible experience. I think he just thought it was funny, but I was really scared that the FM would get broken and that I wouldn’t be able to hear properly in class,” he explains.
His film, Listen with Felix, set in a primary school classroom on a noisy day, follows Felix and class bully, Pugnus, in a situation that escalates when Pugnus threatens to hurt the class pet. The film reflects Xavier’s caring nature and interest in the wellbeing of his peers.
Recently, Xavier was appointed as a school “senator”, one of twelve peer-elected students who will take on a leadership role at the school.
Xavier doesn’t hesitate when asked what he wants to do for a career – he wants to be either a film editor or a judge. It’s clear that film and the creative arts will continue to play a role in his life, but for now, Xavier is looking to the near future and the transition to high school. “I am excited because we have more freedom and more responsibility…we get to choose electives like Digital Media!” he says.
For Anna, choosing a school that offered a K-12 program, enabling him to stay at the same school and continue to receive support from RIDBC was important to the family. It’s also a highlight for Xavier, who says ” I will be staying at the same school, so I will know people.”
As for his family, Anna says they can’t wait to see what is next for Xavier. “We are very proud of Xavier and very blessed to have him in our lives. Our hopes for him are that he is never limited by having limited hearing. He does not need to be.”
Anna encourages other parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing to explore the technologies and support options available to them. “Every child’s needs are unique and every hearing loss is different, but if you work with what is available to you in this country that we live in, your child will have the best experience that they can have.
In Xavier’s case, the combination of early intervention and hearing technology have resulted in him living a completely mainstream life. The sky is the limit!”