RIDBC Quarterly (Abilities) Newsletter – Autumn 2011

RIDBC Background

Autumn 2011

A quarterly publication of current information about RIDBC

In this issue:

  1. From where I sit
  2. A fond farewell to John Berryman
  3. How Manasa is growing and learning
  4. Learning braille a family affair
  5. Splash for Cash
  6. New Centre fills critical need for teachers
  7. Reunion brings together old friends
  8. Rachel ready for kindergarten
  9. Time for some Entertainment!
  10. You can make a difference

Front photo caption: Lachlan overcoming many challenges

1. From where I sit

It is an absolute pleasure to be writing my first column and I’d like to thank the children, families, staff, volunteers, friends and supporters of RIDBC who have made me feel so very welcome since my commencement in November last year.

I pay tribute to John Berryman for his most impressive leadership and dedication to RIDBC over the past 26 years. RIDBC simply wouldn’ t be where it is today without his vision, talent and passion.

The opening of the RIDBC Renwick Centre late last year not only showcased our commitment to professional training, development and research at a world class level, but also highlighted just how far we have come from small beginnings.

With last year’s celebrations of our proud history behind us, we now look forward to the year ahead. We trust it will be another exciting year for RIDBC.

On behalf of RIDBC, thank you for your ongoing support and my very best wishes for 2011.

Chris Rehn
CEO Designate

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2. A fond farewell to John Berryman

John Berryman joined the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) in 1978 as Manager of Computerised Braille Production, establishing the first Computerised Braille Production Unit in the Southern Hemisphere.

On becoming CEO 7 years later, he continued to support and encourage innovation – capitalising on technological developments and new ideas in teaching and early intervention to make lives better.

“Keeping up with and being on top of change, responding to it and utilising it to its best has been challenging, but it is so rewarding when we see the benefits these changes are bringing to the children,” said John.

“The highlight during my time here has been seeing the success of individuals and knowing how different their outcomes would have been had it not been for these marvellous developments and RIDBC.”

The people who have been associated with RIDBC during this time have also left a lasting impression.

“From the children, to Prime Ministers, to Lantern Club members, to exceptional colleagues – the list goes on. It has been a great privilege to get to know and meet some wonderful people over the years. It is certainly a part of the job I will miss,” he said.

After 33 years with RIDBC however, it would be impossible to walk away without looking back.

“RIDBC has been a very important part of my life. I will always be interested in this wonderful organisation and the highly professional and effective work that it does.”

Photo caption: John Berryman with Dale, a student at RIDBC Alice Betteridge School.

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3. How Manasa is growing and learning

Not long after Sudha and her husband arrived in Australia, they decided to start a family. Soon, their beautiful daughter, Manasa, was born. When they discovered that Manasa’s hearing was severely impaired, they didn’t know who to turn to.

Sudha says that when Manasa was born, the hospital could not conduct routine checks because of a virus, so a midwife visited their home when Manasa was a few weeks old.

“The results from an initial hearing check were very worrying – and further testing at Adelaide Children’s Hospital revealed that Manasa wasn’t reacting even to sudden, sharp sounds,” says Sudha.

“That’s when the battle began. Being new to Australia, we didn’t know what services were available, so we asked for advice in our old country. They said that Australia was the best place for Manasa … and Sydney was the best place in Australia.”

That meant another move for the family. In Sydney, Sudha heard about the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC).

“I don’t know how we would have managed without them,” she says. “Alan Kelly from RIDBC Early Learning Program (HI) visited our home and met Manasa, and soon she became an RIDBC student. This was the turning point in her development.”

Manasa has had two cochlear implant operations, the first when she was just 15 months old. Throughout the implant process and in the following years, Manasa and her family received much needed intensive support from RIDBC.

She progressed to RIDBC Rockie Woofit Preschool at age three, and now her mother reports that “the specialised education and attention Manasa has received at RIDBC Rockie Woofit Preschool has transformed her life.”

“Deafness from birth is a barrier to learning language. The implants provide access to sounds, but excellent early intervention is needed to make use of that to develop speech,” adds Sudha.

“Preschool Teachers of the Deaf have helped Manasa learn the names of her favourite animals and the words for all the common things around the home. She comes out with new words all the time, and loves reading too.

“This is all thanks to her wonderful preschool teachers, and the specialist therapists in the RIDBC Resource Team. She’s doing so well and we’re so proud of her,” says Sudha.

Photo caption: Manasa loves reading and learning new words.

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4. Learning braille a family affair

Joshua has only very limited sight, but with the help of his RIDBC Teleschool teacher, Kristen, he is learning how to best use the small amount of vision he has.

Living in Queensland doesn’t prevent Joshua and his family from getting expert support, as Joshua’s lessons are delivered through weekly videoconference sessions.

According to his mum Jenny, he has just blossomed since joining RIDBC Teleschool in 2008. “At 11 months of age it was thought Joshua had no vision at all and we really didn’t know where to start to give him the support he needed. Kristen has given us ideas to help Joshua in day to day situations,” said Jenny.

For vision impaired children, braille is literacy and it will allow Joshua to access educational and employment opportunities in the future. He and his family are learning braille through RIDBC Teleschool.

“We’ve borrowed a Perkins Brailler from RIDBC and Josh is already starting to use that along with braille and tactile books. Braille is difficult but, somehow, Kristen makes it seem easy,” said Jenny.

Kristen also sends up a blue bag full of resources to help Josh’s vision development and a lesson outline for the month.

Having expert support from his teacher ensures that Joshua is progressing and the family is working on the things he needs to improve on.

“RIDBC has been such a positive experience for our family. It has changed our lives. It has also given us the confidence to know we’re doing all the right things to give Josh an independent life.”

Photo caption: RIDBC is helping Joshua and his family learn braille.

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5. Splash for Cash

Splash for Cash is a fun-filled swimathon that raises money for the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC).

This year’s Splash for Cash swimathon will be held on Saturday 9th April at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, Homebush. You can also choose to ‘splash out’ and swim at a different location – just let us know.

Boost your fitness and help a charity at the same time. You’ll also be in the running for some great prizes.

For more information visit www.splashforcash.com.au or call Kaye Bailey on (02) 9872 0329.

Photo caption: Champion marathon swimmers, Susie Maroney, James Pittar, who is blind and Iron Man, Guy Leech at the 2010 RIDBC Splash for Cash swimathon.

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6. New Centre fills critical need for teachers

The new RIDBC Renwick Centre and adjoining Ross Field Building has been officially opened by the Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia, Her Excellency, Professor Marie Bashir.

The opening was an opportunity to highlight RIDBC’s commitment to ensuring that the very best outcomes are achieved for children with impaired hearing or vision through research and world-class professional training of their teachers and therapists.

Professor Bashir praised the work that RIDBC does to break down the barriers between the life experience of children with a vision or hearing impairment and those without.

“It is a privilege to open this splendid new facility, in which those most valuable services of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children will continue to be ensured and extended,” said Professor Bashir.

“This new facility will fulfil a critical need for the training of teachers of deaf children and blind children.”

Professor Bashir thanked RIDBC on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth.

“This is the most wonderful organisation, which I know will go on in perpetuity because of those who support RIDBC and the diligence and excellence of your staff and those whom you train. You are giving lives back to the nation’s most precious resource, our children.”

Photo caption: Bettina presents Professor Bashir with a painting from students at RIDBC Garfield Barwick School.

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7. Reunion brings together old friends

Ninety-five year old Onita Thornton was 8 years old when she left her family’s farm to start school at the New South Wales Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind in Darlington, now the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC).

She was the oldest surviving student attending a recent reunion to celebrate RIDBC’s 150th anniversary. Mrs Thornton was especially lucky to have the chance to go to school because, in 1923 Australia, it was not compulsory for children who were deaf to receive an education at all. It would not become compulsory until the Education Act was amended in 1944.

Access to the same educational opportunities as their hearing peers was the start of revolutionary changes for deaf children, and has seen the number of limitations greatly reduced.

One of Mrs Thornton’s seventeen greatgrandchildren, who is also Deaf, attends RIDBC Roberta Reid Preschool.

“When I went to school, we had a different curriculum to hearing schools. Now I see my grandchildren who are Deaf achieving great things. This all starts with access to the same educational opportunities,” said Mrs Thornton.

Such opportunities were far beyond the imaginings of 8 year old Onita Thornton in 1923.

Photo caption: Onita Thornton at the recent Darlington reunion for Deaf students.

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8. Rachel ready for kindergarten

Rachel was only a day old when screening identified her hearing loss, which is profound. She has received intensive support from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) from 6 months of age.

When a baby has good hearing, learning language happens almost without our noticing, but for a baby who is deaf or hearing impaired, language has to be taught.

Now 5 years old, Rachel is excited about starting her first day of school at RIDBC Garfield Barwick School this year, where she and her mum Pai, have continued access to trained teachers of the deaf and small class groups.

While Rachel is doing very well with her speech, dedicated mum Pai made the decision to have one more year at RIDBC before going to a mainstream school, instead of a special school.

RIDBC works with children in a step by step process towards successful mainstream schooling.

“It is much easier to communicate with the teachers here and find out how Rachel’s going and how I can help her improve at home. It’s not as easy at a big mainstream school,” Pai said.

Children with a hearing impairment can find it very difficult if they don’t have the vocabulary required for classroom learning.

“They may know the concept but it can be just the matter of one word which confuses our children. That is why vocabulary and language is so vital,” said Rachel’s teacher Julie.

“A year at RIDBC Garfield Barwick will allow Rachel to get intensive language support to consolidate the foundations of learning so she’s more comfortable starting Grade 1.”

The amazing part of this story is that Rachel is learning two languages simultaneously.

“Rachel speaks Cantonese at home and is only exposed to English at preschool. Julie has been so good to us, helping me with things Rachel needs to do at home, because learning a second language is much more difficult,” said Pai.

With wonderful parent support, early intervention, and the support from her preschool, Rachel has the three key elements to succeed in mainstream school.

“It was difficult in the beginning, but looking at where Rachel is now makes it all worth it. She’s learnt to speak two languages and we’re looking forward to the future,” said Pai.

Photo caption: As Rachel starts kindergarten this year at RIDBC Garfield Barwick, her mum Pai is thankful for the help from her RIDBC teachers

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9. Time for some Entertainment!

Entertainment™ Books are a great way to save you money while helping the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) provide the highest quality education and support to children with sensory impairment.

Tailored for your local region anywhere in Australia, Entertainment™ Books provide discounts and offers for the finest restaurants, activities and accommodation in the area.

To receive over $100 in bonus offers, pre-order your 2011/2012 Entertainment™ Book now for delivery in April.

A percentage of every book sold goes directly to RIDBC. Over $20,000 was raised in 2010 and we hope to increase this in 2011.

To place an order, please contact Lisa O’Brien on (02) 9872 0856 or visit www.ridbc.org.au/ entertainmentbook

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10. You can make a difference!

You can make a lasting difference to the lives of deaf or blind children through a bequest. For more information please phone (02) 9871 1233 or visit our website at www.ridbc.org.au.

Every year, thousands of people help the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) to make a difference in children’s lives.

Here are some ways you can help:

Make a tax deductible* donation
Many people and businesses give monetary support to RIDBC each year as their way of helping children who are deaf or blind. To make a donation phone
1800 043 411 or visit www.ridbc.org.au/donate.

Participate in a fundraising event
Everything from opera evenings to swimathons. To find out the latest fundraising activities, please phone Kaye Bailey on (02) 9871 1233.

Leave a bequest or legacy
Leaving a gift in your will can help educate deaf children or blind children during their important learning years. For further information, please contact Helen Brooks on (02) 9871 1233.

Become a volunteer
A team of volunteers supports our staff in areas as diverse as proof reading braille, helping in classrooms, or even gardening. For further information please contact Diana Piper on
(02) 9871 1233.

Buy a Rainbow Lottery ticket
Our lottery is held three times a year and offers over $20,000 worth of prizes. To purchase a ticket, phone 1800 043 411.

Buy our merchandise
RIDBC has an extensive range of merchandise available for purchase. To request a catalogue, call 1800 111 474 or visit www.ridbc.org.au/shop.

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