RIDBC Quarterly (Abilities) Newsletter – Summer 2011

RIDBC Background

Abilities: A quarterly publication of current information about RIDBC

In this issue:

  1. From where I sit
  2. 46 years and still passionate about the cause
  3. RIDBC’s support now means Knate is ready for school
  4. RIDBC Hunter celebrates its 20 year anniversary
  5. Look out for RIDBC’s new educational apps!
  6. Language and listening lessons help Jessica prepare for school
  7. Captioning technology helps students on the road to the HSC
  8. RIDBC Teleschool crosses oceans to support Henry
  9. What’s on at RIDBC
  10. You can make a difference

Front photo caption: RIDBC helps Knate learn to use technology

1. From where I sit

I had the pleasure of attending my first RIDBC Teleschool Braille Week recently when six families, from across Australia, visited RIDBC North Rocks to learn about everything from iPads to ice sculptures! The families commented on how important connecting with other families is, and RIDBC is proud to be able to provide them with this important service.

RIDBC Hunter has celebrated its 20th anniversary, with over 900 children and families having accessed the Centre’s services. Today more than 43 families continue to receive comprehensive education, services and support from RIDBC Hunter.

Profiled in this edition of Abilities is Yvonne Gray, an RIDBC volunteer of 46 years who I recently had the pleasure of meeting. RIDBC is very fortunate to have such a committed volunteer.

RIDBC now assists over 3000 children – a record number that wouldn’t be possible without our generous supporters, partners and volunteers. Thank you all for your continued interest and dedication.

Chris Rehn
Chief Executive

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2. 46 years and still passionate about the cause

RIDBC held its Annual Lantern Club Luncheon at the Menzies Hotel in Sydney this September, announcing the year’s record breaking fundraising effort of $600,000. Lantern Clubs from all across NSW attended, including Yvonne Gray of Cronulla Lantern Club.

Yvonne, who has been honoured with two Cook Community Awards for volunteering, has been a member of the Cronulla Lantern Club for 46 years – one of only three founding members who remain with the Club today.

“The inaugural meeting was held in 1966 in the living room of one of my fellow church goers. At that first meeting there were 23 people – now there are 70,” said Yvonne.

“I am the mother of three, the grandmother of eight, and the great grandmother of four, and we’ve all been so lucky. I remember when I first visited RIDBC I was struck by the challenges the children faced. I knew I had to help.

“I grew up in a charitable family so volunteering was instilled in me from an early age. It is also work that has allowed me to make many wonderful friends. It has been truly rewarding.”

In 2011 the Sutherland Shire Council honoured the Cronulla Lantern Club with its ‘Community Group of the Year’ Award.

“It’s extraordinary to think the Club has raised over $1million for RIDBC. As Vice-President that makes me very proud. I know how much good we can do and how many children there are who still need our support.”

To find a Lantern Club near you contact Lantern Club Co-ordinator, Erin Adams, on (02) 9872 0326.

Photo caption: Yvonne enjoying the company of good friends at the Annual Lantern Club Luncheon

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3. RIDBC’s support now means Knate is ready for school

Four-year-old Knate’s vision impairment came as no surprise to his family. “We knew the minute he opened his eyes,” said Knate’s mother, Julie. “We were waiting for our baby’s eyes to focus but they just never did.”

Like his older brother Nikolas, Knate has congenital motor nystagmus. For Knate that means he has clear vision for about a metre. From then on, however his world is just a blur.

Now four, Knate attends RIDBC Nepean Preschool. “It has been a fantastic experience,” said Julie.

“At RIDBC Nepean, Knate learns so much – the program is so detailed. I get a daily report so I feel like I know where Knate is up to with his language and literacy development, and they provide me with photos so I get a really clear sense of the activities he is engaged in.

“RIDBC has been a fantastic support in preparing Knate for school next year. He has been using technology to make sure that he has full access to his environment.”

Knate has been busy learning to use a CCTV system that magnifies his work and projects it onto a screen at a size that’s more comfortable for him.

Knate has also started learning how to use an iPad.

“Many find it a great surprise to discover that an iPad is a fantastic device for children who are blind or have vision impairment, but when you see a child using an iPad their eyes light up. They don’t even realise they’re learning,” said Knate’s RIDBC Early Childhood Teacher, Joanne Fickel.

“Straight out of the box an iPad has so many useful features and it’s great socially because it helps a child with a vision impairment to ‘fit in’ with the other children at school – perfect for any child with a vision impairment who wants to use the same technology as their peers.”

School will be a huge next step for Knate but one that Julie wholeheartedly believes he is ready for, thanks to the support of RIDBC. “I’d feel lost without RIDBC, it’s such an amazing place.”

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4. RIDBC Hunter celebrates its 20 year anniversary

RIDBC Hunter, officially opened on 31 October 1991, has just celebrated its 20 year anniversary.

The Centre has provided education and support to hundreds of children and families in the region through a preschool, early learning program, parent support groups and early learning groups.

Hudson joined RIDBC Hunter Early Learning Program after a diagnosis of bilateral hearing impairment at 28 days old.

“From the beginning, RIDBC’s one-on-one sessions saw Hudson begin to develop speech and language,” said Hudson’s mum, Rachel. “His speech is now in the normal range for his age group and he is doing really well.

“I cannot speak highly enough of RIDBC Hunter. They go out of their way to help you, especially in the early days after diagnosis when you are trying to navigate through complex, unfamiliar settings.

“The staff at RIDBC Hunter gave me the guidance I needed to best support my son.”

Hudson’s twin brother Flynn also attends RIDBC Hunter Preschool.

“RIDBC has helped not only Hudson, but my whole family. We’ve had a wonderful experience.”

RIDBC Hunter Director Wendy Dorn said the milestone was a chance to celebrate the success of a wonderful local centre.

“Families, staff and volunteers were involved in a range of activities for the anniversary. It allowed us to thank those who have helped make the Centre what it is today,” she said.

Photo caption: Hudson gets help with a puzzle from mum, Rachel

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5. Look out for RIDBC’s new educational apps!

Look out for RIDBC’s new apps for iPad and iPhone on the iTunes store.

The first in the series of educational apps, ‘Old Macdonald’, is already available online – with five more apps to follow.

Based around well-known nursery rhymes, the apps aim to help children – including those who are deaf or hearing impaired – develop their listening and language skills.

They offer sing-a-long music and interactive games as well as instructional content that provides parents with techniques and strategies to assist them in fostering their child’s speech and language.

The Old Macdonald App is available for $0.99 from the App Store on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch or through www.ridbc.org.au/apps

Photo caption: ‘Old Macdonald’

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6. Language and listening lessons help Jessica prepare for school

New South Wales’ Statewide Infant Screening – Hearing (SWISH) Program ensured that when little Jessica was born her hearing impairment was picked up immediately.

With no known history of hearing loss in the family, Jessica’s mum Olivia was confronted with a lot of questions about her future – particularly when it was discovered that Jessica had Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (LVAS), which causes hearing loss.

“At three months of age Jessica was fitted with hearing aids and she now has a cochlear implant,” said Olivia. “When I spoke to other mothers many had high praise for the services offered by RIDBC.”

This network of mums encouraged Olivia to enrol Jessica on RIDBC’s Early Learning Program.

“RIDBC has been an amazing support and Jessica is thriving with RIDBC’s play-based approach to language development and speech clarity. This has really prepared her for her transition to school,” said Olivia.

“It wasn’t always easy. At the beginning I would bring Jessica to RIDBC’s therapy sessions and cry because I was overwhelmed – but I received so much support that I soon realised a good early intervention program like RIDBC’s gives you all the help you need to support your child.” With RIDBC’s assistance Jessica’s language is now above average for her age.

“RIDBC’s advice on how to take advantage of language development opportunities at home has been a great help,” said Olivia.

“When we were working on the ‘sh’ sound we were given a lot of games that we could play at home that incorporated words with that sound. This simple concept made a big difference.”

Whilst Jessica is doing well, Olivia is not without worry about the challenges that lie ahead.

“I think her personality will help to carry her through. She is very warm and affectionate and that encourages others to be the same.

“RIDBC is such a fantastic charity, we have felt so supported here. Jessica is truly excited about going to ‘big school’, and I know now that she has the best possible chance in life as she steps out into the world.”

Photo caption: Jessica is learning speech clarity techniques with the assistance of RIDBC specialists

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7. Captioning technology helps students on the road to the HSC

For the first time RIDBC is using real-time captioning to help students who are deaf prepare for their HSC.

The captioning program is helping students like Olwyne and Christian who communicate using Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and written English.

Attending RIDBC Thomas Pattison School until Year 10, the boys are now in year 11 at Hills Grammar.

To caption, an RIDBC School Support Teacher speaks into a microphone as the classroom teacher delivers the lesson. Voice recognition software converts the speech into a written transcript that appears, in real-time, on the student’s laptop.

“RIDBC School Support Teachers are also Auslan Interpreters, using captioning and interpreting together. In each lesson a choice is made as to which mode of communication is best,” said Kerrie Christie, RIDBC School Support Teacher.

“The program is helpful because it tells us almost exactly what the teacher and students are saying,” said Olwyne. “To be able to read and learn from written English is a huge advantage.”

Christian agrees that for English skills, the captioning system has been a great help. “The program is one of the many ways RIDBC continues to offer me assistance,” said Christian. “It is particularly helpful in developing my reading and grammar skills.”

Both students are looking forward to completing high school and moving on to new endeavours.

Photo caption: Olwyne and Christian using the captioning system at Hills Grammar

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8. RIDBC Teleschool crosses oceans to support Henry

When Henry was born profoundly deaf the diagnosis came as a huge surprise to his family. “RIDBC Teleschool was, and still is, a lifeline for us. It allows us to remain connected to RIDBC, one of the best support services in the world for children with a hearing impairment – and this despite our relocation to the Middle East,” said Henry’s mum, Sarah.

At 11 months Henry’s bilateral cochlear implants were switched on. Since then his progress has accelerated.

“Cochlear implants are not the ‘solution’ to Henry’s hearing impairment. He needs ongoing support to develop his listening and language skills, and RIDBC Teleschool provides that,” said Sarah.

“We love being able to do the sessions from home – whether in Australia or Dubai. It means that Henry is in a familiar setting and can focus on the activities rather than his surroundings.

“Now at 18 months Henry has a vocabulary of 40 words and we no longer think of him as hearing impaired – he is just our beautiful little boy.”

Photo caption: Henry and mum Sarah at RIDBC where Henry is learning to listen and speak with his cochlear implants

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9. What’s on at RIDBC

Splash for Cash

Save the date for your local Splash for Cash – a fun filled swimathon that raises funds for RIDBC.

Open to all ages and abilities, participants are invited to swim either as individuals or as part of a team.


24 March 2012

Central Coast:

25 March 2012


25 March 2012

For more information or to register go to www.splashforcash.com.au or contact Heather Klein on (02) 9872 0237.

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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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