RIDBC Quarterly (Abilities) Newsletter – Spring 2011

RIDBC Background

Abilities: A quarterly publication of current information about RIDBC

In this issue:

  1. From where I sit
  2. A Degree that differentiates
  3. Technology opens worlds for RIDBC children
  4. Elijah’s amazing progress
  5. Generous support for generations to come
  6. With RIDBC’s help Dallas is becoming more confident
  7. RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre Launched by Premier
  8. Time for some Entertainment!
  9. What’s on at RIDBC
  10. You can make a difference

Front photo caption: Meet Daena-June who is discovering braille

1. From where I sit

Seeing children develop and change over time, and seeing the impact that innovation and technology can have on families, is one of the most rewarding aspects of working at RIDBC.

I first met Alison, Richard and Elijah, who are featured in this edition of Abilities, when Elijah was just a few months of age and had been recently diagnosed with a profound hearing loss.

Today, Elijah can count to ten and tell you his address – he is a most engaging little boy. It has been a real pleasure for RIDBC to be part of Elijah and his family’s journey to date.

Margaret Dobbin, also featured in this newsletter, is indicative of the many generous people who make the services of RIDBC possible.

In June 2011, we reached a record with 1000 children enrolled at RIDBC in addition to over 2000 children and families who receive our assessment and audiological services. Thank you for your ongoing interest, generosity and support of RIDBC.

Chris Rehn
Chief Executive

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2. A Degree that differentiates

Amanda recently received her Masters of Special Education (Hearing Impairment) with Distinction through RIDBC Renwick Centre.

Amanda was one of sixty postgraduate students to graduate from RIDBC Renwick Centre, helping to address a critical shortage in trained teachers of the deaf or blind.

Amanda’s interest in special education started to develop when her son, Tim, was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at six weeks of age. Amanda says her determined nature saw her through this otherwise challenging time.

“I am not a ‘head in the sand’ sort of person, so when my son was born deaf – with no history of deafness in my family – I took it in my stride,” said Amanda.

RIDBC services were a critical support to Tim throughout his childhood and teenage years.

“When I received a sponsorship to study through RIDBC Renwick Centre there was never any doubt in my mind that was where I wanted to go.”

“RIDBC supported my family and guided us through many of the decisions we had to make around Tim’s education.

“When Tim was a baby they taught us how to use everyday activities to develop his language. Now in Year 11, RIDBC School Support Service’s weekly visit consolidates Tim’s listening skills and curriculum strategies.

“This degree allows me to support families just like mine – trying to make sure their hearing impaired child has the best opportunities in life.

“I look forward to being able to help them in the same way RIDBC was able to help me.”

Photo caption: Tim joins Amanda at her RIDBC Renwick Centre graduation

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3. Technology opens worlds for RIDBC children

With a dedicated Access Technology Centre, RIDBC harnesses technology to help children who are vision or hearing impaired tackle life’s challenges on equal terms with their peers.

Mike Corrigan, one of RIDBC’s Access Technology Consultants, chuckles at memories of studying at Uni as a young blind man.

“I remember typing an assignment once, only to discover that the typewriter ribbon had run out. I had spent an afternoon producing remarkable words of wisdom, only to find the pages were blank!”

Mike is reflecting on what it was like to be the only blind student at the University of Newcastle back in the late 70s and early 80s. “I suppose I was a bit of a pioneer, although it didn’t feel like it at the time. We just didn’t have the tools and technology that are available today. If we wanted to use a text book, we had to send it off to be read and recorded onto cassette tapes. That took weeks.”

How times have changed. Today, children who are blind or vision impaired have much greater access to the world around them. Mike and his team at the RIDBC Access Technology Centre harness everyday technology such as the Internet, scanners, netbooks and laptops – as well as specialist tools such as screen reader software and electronic braille displays – to ensure no child misses out on the information they need.

“What once took an afternoon you can now do on your computer in a much shorter time. Many journals, magazines and articles are available online. It’s truly remarkable to sit with a blind student as they research online, then use PowerPoint to create a presentation.”

So, what are the challenges of today?

“We recently investigated ways to use electronic braille technology to help a child who is vision impaired participate in a school debating team. How could they share their ideas, make notes and then form their arguments – instantly? Fortunately, kids these days have so many more choices than I had when I was young. Now we have a set of technologies and tools to help children who are deaf or blind connect with the world around them.”

As the need for additional support grows, so does the cost. RIDBC is estimating a budget of $6 million over three years to improve its hardware, software and IT systems to allow, for example, online access to the latest research, lectures and seminars for parents, teachers and students.

Alan Baynham, Mike’s Manager and the head of RIDBC VisionEd, says, “it’s a lot of money but when you listen to Mike’s story, you realise how far we’ve come and how much better life has become for our children.”

Photo caption: Mike and Michelle at the RIDBC Access Technology Centre work with children like Ezekiel, who is vision impaired, to ensure they have access to the same curriculum as their sighted peers.

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4. Elijah’s amazing progress

When Elijah was diagnosed as profoundly deaf soon after birth, his parents Richard and Ali didn’t know what opportunities would be available for their little boy.

The family started at RIDBC Early Learning Program when Elijah was just two months old.

“From the very beginning, the staff have been encouraging and supportive of our whole family to help us learn how to interact with Elijah,” said Ali.

“He received two cochlear implants when he was five months old. We’ve worked really hard with RIDBC to help Elijah learn how to interpret words and how to develop speech using his cochlear implants.”

With skilled early intervention and a dedicated family, Elijah now has a language level which surpasses that of a hearing two year old.

“Elijah’s progress has been amazing! If someone had told us in the first few weeks of his life that he had the potential to progress so far, I don’t think we would have believed them,” said Ali.

“We are so thankful to the staff at RIDBC for all their help.”

Elijah’s story is a testament to the possibilities available for deaf children today when the right technology is combined with early diagnosis, quality intervention and a devoted family.

Photo caption: With a dedicated family and skilled intervention, Elijah’s language is surpassing his hearing peers.

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5. Generous support for generations to come

Margaret Dobbin has been supporting the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) since 1986, when she bought her first lottery ticket.

“It was important for me to give to a charity which helps children. I’ve always had a fear of blindness and I can’t imagine the challenges the children at RIDBC face every day. But when I come out to visit RIDBC I can see that the children are doing wonderfully well thanks to the innovative work of the organisation.”

Margaret has decided to leave a legacy in her Will to RIDBC which will ensure that a whole new generation of children will be able to access the educational opportunities necessary to reach their full potential.

As an accountant only just retired, Margaret encourages people to think about getting their affairs into order early. “I thought it was very important to make a decision about my estate well before anything happens. It means that my friends and family are aware of my wishes.”

“Technology changes so quickly. When I think of the changes I’ve already seen at RIDBC, I know that opportunities for the children will continue to grow.

“I’m really happy to think that the children who will come to RIDBC in the future will benefit in some small way from the gift that I will leave for them.”

For more information about leaving a legacy to RIDBC call Helen Brooks on 9872 0206.

Photo caption: Margaret’s support of RIDBC spans two and a half decades

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6. With RIDBC’s help Dallas is becoming more confident

Jade was told her pregnancy was progressing as expected, so when Dallas was born without eyes and was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder at two weeks, the news was a shock.

“I was in complete disbelief,” said Jade. “The hospital didn’t know what to do, so we took Dallas home and just tried to get through each day.”

At the time, Jade was living in Tasmania where a Speech Pathologist introduced her to RIDBC Teleschool.

“It was such a relief. RIDBC was able to give me some guidance on how to interact with Dallas.”

Now living in Sydney, Jade receives home visits from RIDBC Early Learning Program.

“We are introducing Dallas to braille and are focusing on building her confidence in reaching towards sound,” said RIDBC’s Tricia Geniale.

“Jade has learned quickly about the needs of a blind child and it has been a great pleasure to work collaboratively with her – she is the key to Dallas’ success.”

Jade feels Dallas’ future must be faced one day at a time, but she is full of hope.

“I ask Tricia a million questions and she always finds an answer. That builds a lot of trust in RIDBC’s expertise, which is essential when your child faces so many challenges,” said Jade.

Photo caption: Dallas is learning social skills through play

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7. RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre Launched by Premier

NSW Premier, The Hon. Barry O’Farrell MP, has officially opened RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

The Centre is an early intervention service supporting children who have significant hearing impairment. It also provides services for children with additional special needs.

RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre’s multi-disciplinary early intervention team makes sure that children, and their families, receive the early specialised care that is so critical to their child’s development.

The Centre also establishes itself as a permanent fixture for RIDBC’s services in Sydney’s east, relieving families of the burden that extensive travel to specialist appointments can place on those caring for a child with a disability.

“RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre seeks to ensure that these children get the best possible start in life, giving them, and their families, support and assistance from trained professionals across a broad range of fields,” said RIDBC Chief Executive, Chris Rehn.

“The Centre is an important link in the chain for families in the Eastern Suburbs looking to access the expert care and support that will allow their children to develop relationships, communication and language.”

Katrina and Brendan’s five year old son, Jacob, attends RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre due to his significant hearing impairment and cerebral palsy.

“Jacob was diagnosed with a form of hearing impairment called auditory neuropathy when he was just ten weeks old,” said Katrina.

“At RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre he receives individualised care from therapists and teachers who together create a program for him which is truly unique.”

Combining his language development needs with his social and physical development needs, in six months Jacob is now close to age appropriate development.

“I feel so passionate about the work RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre staff do. It is holistic care at its best, providing specialist education as well as emotional support. It is an amazing program to experience.

“Jacob is doing really well. He is such a sociable little boy and with help from Matilda Rose he can now fully participate in his peer group and join in on classroom discussions. He grows and improves every day.”

Photo caption: Katrina with Jacob who is thriving at RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre

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8. 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.

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 Belinda Patton on (02) 9872 0856 or visit www.ridbc.org.au/entertainmentbook

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9. What’s on at RIDBC

Opera Stars in Concert

Featuring the Opera Australia Chorus and stars of Opera Australia

When: Sunday 9 October 2011 at 2pm. Where: Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

RIDBC invites you to enjoy Opera Stars in Concert, to be directed by Michael Lewis and held in the stately Verbrugghen Hall.

Enjoy a delightful afternoon of Opera and mingle with the stars over champagne and high tea for only $75 per person, with all proceeds going to RIDBC.

Bookings can be made through Kaye Bailey at kaye.bailey@ridbc.org.au or on (02) 9872 0329

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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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