RIDBC Quarterly (Abilities) Newsletter – Winter 2011

RIDBC Background

Winter 2011

A quarterly publication of current information about RIDBC

In this issue:

  1. From where I sit
  2. Braille camp helps rural families
  3. Daena-June benefits from skilled teaching
  4. The RIDBC Renwick Centre reinforces the CPE program
  5. Book it in
  6. School Support helps Shannon to Shine
  7. Sculptures give children a tactile experience
  8. Cody continues from strength to strength
  9. Time for some Entertainment!
  10. You can make a difference

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

1. From where I sit

I’ve always been impressed with the role technology plays in enhancing lives, particularly the lives of children. Having worked closely with cochlear implants prior to arriving at RIDBC, I was aware of the difference technology can make for those with a hearing impairment.

Since joining RIDBC I have been amazed at the role technology plays in assisting children with vision impairment. At 6 years of age Daena-June, featured within this Abilities, is learning early computer skills. Her access to the computer is by voice output which now allows her to independently locate and listen to talking books. She is also learning braille using an electronic brailler.

In the near future we will see further development of mainstream technologies such as the Apple Ipad® and other mobile devices that can make a real difference to children with a hearing and vision impairment. RIDBC is committed to improving the lives of children using these exciting and up to date technologies. RIDBC will be making a significant investment in technology and I look forward to keeping you informed about these developments in future editions of Abilities.

Chris Rehn
Chief Executive

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2. Braille camp helps rural families

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) recently held a Braille Camp for blind and vision impaired children and their families who live in rural or regional Australia.

RIDBC Teleschool works with children and their families via videoconferencing to studios and childrens homes across Australia. It assists children to develop the skills they need to access the best possible educational opportunities.

For blind children, braille means literacy and numeracy but it’s not easy to learn. It’s even more challenging for families who live outside of the major cities where expertise may not be available.

“The purpose of the week-long camp was two-fold. While the children received intensive help with their braille skills, parents also benefited from different activities to help them work with their children at home,” said Melissa McCarthy, Head of RIDBC Teleschool.

The camp provided an opportunity for the children to be exposed to a range of assistive technology including voice output on computers and manual and electronic braillers.

“Not only did parents learn about the assistive technology available for vision impaired children, but also how to make tactile and braille books for their children. It is really important to give parents the confidence they need to help their children at home,” said Melissa.

Photo caption: Sidney from Cairns and Charlie from Tamworth enjoy playing together at braille camp.

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3. Daena-June benefits from skilled teaching

Melissa and her husband were eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. When their beautiful daughter Daena-June arrived, it was a normal, full-term birth. So both parents were totally surprised when the first setback occurred just 24 hours after her birth.

“At first, the medical team thought she might have been suffering from epilepsy,” said Melissa. “But there was more in store for us.”

When Daena-June was four weeks old, she experienced unusual myopic muscle spasms. She was admitted to the Children’s Hospital Westmead, where it was discovered she had septo-optic dysplasia. Melissa explains that this means the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain is underdeveloped and that a midline part of the brain is absent.

“We knew our gorgeous little girl was going to have a real battle on her hands,” says Melissa. “By the time she was six weeks old, we knew that Daena-June would never see, and had intellectual disabilities as well.”

When most kids are learning to walk, talk and play, Daena-June was undergoing intensive therapy. But it paid off, and it wasn’t too long before Melissa and her husband had to find a suitable school for Daena-June.

One suggestion was the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s Alice Betteridge School. “We were impressed with what we saw right from the start. Little did we realise, however, how much difference this wonderful RIDBC school would make,” says Melissa.

Thanks to the innovative teaching at RIDBC, Daena-June is learning braille and is much more confident in every way. She’s using a ‘Real Object Book’ which combines braille with modelling of real objects to help her understand things she can’t see. She’s learning numbers, her speech is clearer – in fact she’s quite talkative. Her teachers report that she has developed a very strong and engaging personality. She’s quite an amazing child.

Melissa says that her motor skills have improved too. “Can you believe she’s learning to dance? Even her paediatrician is amazed at Daena’s progress. Sending Daena-June to RIDBC is the best decision we ever made for her,” adds Melissa.

Photo caption: Daena-June is learning braille and is much more confident in every way since starting at RIDBC.

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4. The RIDBC Renwick Centre reinforces the CPE program

Trudy Smith has just started at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children to manage the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) program of the RIDBC Renwick Centre.

Continuous professional education is the cornerstone of good practice. Through the RIDBC Renwick Centre CPE program, RIDBC helps ensure that the services which are delivered to children and their families right across Australia are based on current evidence-based practice.

RIDBC Renwick Centre plays a key role in professional education and research in the broader field of sensory disability – both in Australia and internationally.

“While my role involves liaising with staff from within RIDBC, it also involves working closely with professionals across the field to determine their learning needs and how the Renwick Centre can meet those needs.”

As a Teacher of the Deaf working as state-wide advisor in hearing impairment for the Department of Education in Queensland, Trudy was very familiar with the work of RIDBC.

“I’ve been coming to RIDBC for professional development events for the last 13 years so I know the programs very well.”

An important part of Trudy’s role is to identify key international academics and practitioners to present in the CPE program.

“Being within the RIDBC Renwick Centre means that I am able to maintain an awareness of the latest national and international research in sensory disability.

“People here at RIDBC are so generous with their knowledge and their time which is particularly helpful for me in the area of vision impairment. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to engage in a professional way with so many talented people.”

Photo caption: Trudy Smith has just started working at RIDBC coordinating the professional education program for RIDBC Renwick Centre.

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5. Book it in

Calling all bookworms and bargain hunters to support the annual Book, Toy and Music Fair on 16 and 17 July.

Simply by donating your pre-loved items before the event, or picking up a bargain (or 20!) over the weekend, you can show your support for RIDBC.

With a record number of items expected, this year’s Book Fair is set to be the best yet. Hardbacks and popular novels can all be found at a fraction of their original price, as well as recycled toys, records, DVDs and CDs.

Attendees can cruise the carefully categorised collections on 16 and 17 July, from 8am to 3pm at 361-365 North Rocks Road, North Rocks.

Deliveries of donations will also be welcomed from 7am – 3pm onsite at RIDBC until 7 July.

For further information phone Heather Klein on (02) 9871 1233 or visit www.ridbc.org.au.

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6. School Support helps Shannon to Shine

Shannon is in her last year of primary school at Arndell College in Oakville and is an extremely busy 12 year old.

Diagnosed as profoundly deaf shortly after birth, Shannon received her first cochlear implant at four years of age. When she was nine, she received her second implant.

She has had one-on-one support from her RIDBC School Support Teacher, Anne Evans, since she started at Arndell in year 3.

Anne works closely with the class teacher to ensure Shannon is getting the extra support she needs.

“I work with Shannon to bring meaning to the language she hears in class across all subject areas. In this way, she will be able to understand instructions and activities when the language is used in context in the classroom,” said Anne.

Gymnastics, piano and art classes are just a few of the activities this enthusiastic 12 year old takes on in a week.

Shannon’s resilience and social personality has helped her overcome some of the difficulties she may have with her deafness.

As mum Donna explains, she’s learnt to adapt, if she doesn’t know what’s going on she’ll definitely ask.

“Shannon is doing very well and she’s ready to join her brother and sister at Arndell for high school next year.”

Photo caption: Shannon works on her language with her RIDBC Teacher of the Deaf, Anne Evans.

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7. Sculptures give children a tactile experience

When Coral’s husband passed away she wanted his sculptures to go somewhere where they would be appreciated and looked after.

As a retired teacher, Coral could see the benefit the sculptures would have for the children at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC).

“After donating many of the sculptures, I was invited to go and see how they were helping the children with language development. I was absolutely thrilled to see how they had set them up at RIDBC so others could enjoy them too.”

“I then decided to leave a bequest to RIDBC. I’m not a wealthy person, but what I have I’d like to leave to RIDBC.”

Coral has become a member of the Hunter Baille Circle – a special group established to recognise, honour and thank those who have made provision to remember RIDBC in their Will.

“I’ve now learnt more about the organisation and I know that it is a very special place. It’s a wonderful charity and I feel very content with the decision that I’ve made.”

Photo caption: Coral Jocic with one of the sculptures she donated in RIDBC VisionEd Preschool.

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8. Cody continues from strength to strength

Cody’s diagnosis of hearing loss at six weeks of age was a shock to the family who had no experience with deafness.

Cody’s mum Louise said they were lucky at the time to meet families who had four and five year old children with cochlear implants.

“Very early on I was able to see that Cody could still achieve the same things that a child with perfect hearing might achieve,” said Louise.

Three years on from the diagnosis, Cody has grown into a happy, healthy little boy and a doting big brother to his one year old sister, Leila.

He started at RIDBC Nepean Preschool this year. This reverse integration preschool invites local children who do not have a disability to enroll. The language of these children provides an excellent model for the children who have a hearing or vision impairment.

“I think of RIDBC Nepean Preschool as the half way point before a mainstream school. To know the staff are trained and know exactly what we’ve been through and where Cody needs to get to is such a relief.”

Director, Melissa Sangalang, said Cody is doing really well at Preschool.

“He is still getting used to the preschool routine,” said Melissa, “but we’re working on Cody’s language development focusing on his interests using colours and animals. Cody loves to explore our vegetable and herb garden and to use the ingredients to cook.”

While it is clear that Cody’s wonderful family has been the main influence on his life, RIDBC has assisted by providing early intervention for Cody from a young age. Throughout that time the guidance of trained teachers of the deaf, has helped Cody to move forward with his hearing friends.

“We know that the road for hearing impaired children might be a bit tricky, and that things may be achieved at different ages and stages. However, RIDBC has given my family the confidence to know that Cody is going to be fine,” said Louise.

“When Cody turns five we expect he’ll go to a local school, and thanks to RIDBC we know he’ll be able to achieve and do great things.”

“We are so grateful to RIDBC for giving us the help we needed to give Cody choices and options for the future. I now know that doors will be open to him despite his hearing loss.”

Photo caption: Cody’s teachers work on his language development focusing on his interests using colours and animals.

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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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