RIDBC Quarterly Newsletter – Spring 2012

RIDBC Background

The RIDBC Quarterly: A quarterly publication of current information about RIDBC

In this issue:

  1. From the Chief Executive
  2. Alfie’s confidence grows
  3. Raquel is learning language
  4. Playgroup helps Keira learn
  5. Isam is excelling at reading
  6. What’s on at RIDBC
  7. You can make a difference

1. From the Chief Executive

I recently travelled to the USA under support from Cochlear Ltd to visit some benchmark hearing services and cochlear implant programs. I am pleased to report back that Australia’s hearing and vision services really are world class, ensuring the best outcomes for children with hearing or vision loss.

In the last edition of The RIDBC Quarterly I spoke about our new Darwin program. This aims to provide a ‘blended’ service, combining face-to-face, centre-based, and RIDBC Teleschool services, to children and their families in the top end, with a significant additional aim of providing in-depth indigenous health and hearing care.

The program’s coordinator, Rachel Brindal, is busy establishing the service and we are now looking forward to an official opening later in the year. Furthering our technology focus, RIDBC is in the process of launching a series of six iPad applications to assist children with hearing loss.

With nursery rhymes as their basis, these apps focus on important learning concepts such as speech and language development – and they’re so much fun that the learning becomes intuitive. Our first ever app, The Auslan Tutor, has been downloaded 32,000 times worldwide, so we know there is a significant demand for these powerful learning tools.

You can download these apps from ridbc.org.au/apps. We have some terrific RIDBC events for your diary courtesy of our connection with Qantas. These events are great fun and I do hope you may be able to join us! More details can be found within this edition. I would also like to thank the many donors that regularly support RIDBC.

We are most grateful to all who make our work possible through their gifts and their generous foresight to consider a bequest that supports RIDBC into the future. Our work simply would not be possible if not for our many generous supporters.

Chris Rehn
Chief Executive

Photo caption: RIDBC Chief Executive, Chris Rehn, enjoying a cup of tea with Emma from RIDBC Early Learning Program (Vision Impairment)

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2. Alfie’s confidence grows

Alfie, who is two years old, is receiving support for his vision loss from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s (RIDBC) Hunter Centre.

When little Alfie was born to parents Tracy and Craig it soon became apparent that something wasn’t right.

“Alfie screamed a lot and wouldn’t settle and we ended up in a residential program for support,” said Tracy. “I knew something was wrong but I didn’t yet know what, so it was a relief when Alfie was diagnosed with albinism as I knew that his problems sleeping and settling weren’t because I was doing something ‘wrong’.”

Tracy and her family were referred to RIDBC Hunter Early Learning Program (Vision Impairment) when Alfie was ten months old, originally attending sessions every week – and now fortnight.

“Finding RIDBC was a godsend. I finally had people I could talk to about Alfie,” said Tracy. “There are a lot of stereotypes about albinism – people think you just have to keep your child out of the sun. That’s true, but vision loss is also a major symptom. Alfie is legally blind.”

RIDBC Hunter staff support the family in managing Alfie’s vision loss.

“Alfie is highly motivated to participate in activities that have been planned to target the development of his visual perception, visual tracking, visual scanning and visual motor integration skills,” said RIDBC Teacher, Trish Lange.

“Alfie is sorting puzzles by colour, tracking the movement of toys, and engaging in sensory play including finger painting.”

Since attending the Program the family have learned about the difference between Alfie having some usable vision and a capacity to see detail.

“We know to be careful because Alfie takes some time to become accustomed to new environments. He can feel overwhlemed,” said Tracy. “When he’s familiarised himself with a new place then he’s far more confident.

“Alfie is doing so well. He absolutely loves coming to RIDBC Hunter, often joined by his older brother Harry. The program has really helped my whole family, and Alfie’s confidence has improved exponentially, particularly with his peers.”

Photo caption: Alfie, pictured here with his mum, Tracy, is becoming a puzzle “champion” (which he has asked to be called)

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3. Raquel is learning language

Lorein and Joe already had three children when Raquel was born, and there was no known hearing loss in their families. So it was a complete surprise when Raquel failed her hearing test at birth.

“We had to undergo an extensive hearing assessment at the hospital. My husband and I were in tears – it was overwhelming,” said Lorein. “However, once we accepted Raquel’s hearing loss we just got on with it.”

Raquel was three months old when she received hearing aids in both ears and was referred to the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC).

“We began receiving weekly home visits from staff at RIDBC Early Learning Program (Hearing Impairment) and then, when Raquel was six months old, we came in for sessions at RIDBC in North Rocks,” said Lorein.

“We never felt like we needed to think about what was around the corner because we received so much information about Raquel’s hearing loss. It really helped us to understand.

“Raquel progressed well. Her sister, Alexis, was able to come in for some of the sessions at RIDBC and we also joined a fortnightly playgroup for parents and siblings. This contact with other families has been a huge part of the process for us.”

Raquel now attends RIDBC Rockie Woofit Preschool.

“Raquel is absolutely delightful,” said RIDBC Rockie Woofit Preschool Director, Julie Kaney. “She has a real enthusiasm for learning and her language, play and social skills have just continued to improve.

“As Raquel may go to a mainstream school next year we are helping to prepare her for that transition, focusing on making her independent with her technology so she knows how to look after her hearing aids and FM system.

“Raquel loves technology and using an iPad. She can follow instructions really well and she is building her vocabulary. She is very much on the way to being prepared for a mainstream school.”

Lorein feels Raquel’s confidence has really grown since starting preschool.

“This year has been phenomenal due to the educational support Raquel has received at the Preschool. Now she cannot wait to go to ‘big school’,” said Lorein.

“I recommend RIDBC to everyone. Our experience has been amazing.”

Photo caption: Raquel loves learning language with the help of an iPad

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4. Playgroup helps Keira learn

A playgroup at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s (RIDBC) Matilda Rose Centre is helping children who have hearing loss learn language and build confidence interacting with their peers.

Three year old Keira has profound hearing loss in both ears and is learning to listen and speak with the help of two cochlear implants. She also has cerebral palsy.

Each week Keira meets with three other girls who have been matched according to their ages, abilities and interests. In the small group they are able to build relationships, and these help them to develop the language and social skills necessary to succeed in a mainstream school.

“Due to Keira’s low muscle tone in her torso, she struggles to get the air flow she needs for speech,” said RIDBC Speech Pathologist, Terry Meskin. “However, her response to her peers is incredible – the excitement of talking about her interests with girls her own age really propels her to increase her volume and articulation.

“The playgroup has been a fantastic setting to promote language acquisition as well as the social skills Keira will need in a mainstream school: learning to wait your turn, learning to listen and also learning how to speak up in a busy environment. These skills can really help make a child successful at school.”

Keira’s mum, Alexandra, has been amazed at the improvement Keira has already shown. “I’ve really noticed the playgroup helping Keira’s memory and language continuity – she’ll come home after the group and talk about what happened, and that repetition is helping her to learn,” said Alexandra.

The playgroup also presents an opportunity for the parents of the girls to learn new skills and to meet other parents who can support each other.

“When Keira is in the group, we mums sit down and share a cup of tea. It’s great to be able to talk to people who share so much in common with me in terms of bringing up children with hearing loss and additional special needs,” said Alexandra.

“It’s nice to get an opportunity to talk about strategies – particularly involving our other children.”

Photo caption: Keira and Terry exploring the playgroup’s launch theme of ‘babies’ to build language, communication and social skills around activities such as bathing a baby

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5. Isam is excelling at reading

Seven year old Isam, who attends the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s (RIDBC) Thomas Pattison School, has impressed his teachers with the reading age of an 11 year old.

Despite being born profoundly deaf and ineligible for both hearing aids and cochlear implants, Isam’s passion for language has seen him excel with assistance from RIDBC Thomas Pattison School, which caters for students from Kindergarten to Year 10 who are profoundly deaf and bi-lingual – communicating in Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and English.

“Isam has an extraordinary thirst for knowledge,” said RIDBC Primary Teacher, Melina Williams. “He is the only deaf child in a hearing family where English is a second language, so you can imagine the obstacles that he faces in acquiring vocabulary – and yet he likes nothing more than to pick up the dictionary to read in his spare time!

“To support Isam we have been providing him with additional learning opportunities, including access to the Year Six English class where he can learn at his language and reading level. I also use class reading time to support Isam with advanced reading material – backing up his voracious appetite for language with the Auslan he needs to be able to express himself.”

Isam’s mother, Miki, is proud of her son and thankful for the support the family has received from RIDBC.

“Isam started showing an interest in reading at a very early age – which we encouraged,” said Miki. “As my husband and I aren’t fluent in Auslan or English it is important to feel confident knowing that RIDBC Thomas Pattison School teachers will support Isam in learning a bilingual curriculum.

“The extra lessons Isam has been able to access at the school are wonderful – I think he would get bored if he wasn’t given extra reading challenges.”

Photo caption: Isam reading with his teacher, Melina, who helps him to translate written English into Australian Sign Language (Auslan)

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6. What’s on at RIDBC

Have fun and fundraise for RIDBC this quarter!

  • Abstract Committee Musical Soirée – in the beautiful Cranbrook School Ballroom, 16 September, $75 pp
  • Opera Stars in Concert – featuring stars of Opera Australia, 23 September, Mosman Art Gallery and Community Centre, $65 pp
  • Qantas Pathfinders Annual Revue – a hilarious, high-energy show, Norths, Cammeray, 16 – 20 October, $35 pp
  • Qantas Pathfinders Charity Flight – a day of culinary delights and sightseeing, 3 November, Daylesford & Ballarat, $800 pp
  • Blackmores Sydney Running Festival – run for RIDBC, 16 September

To find out more go to www.ridbc.org.au/event or contact RIDBC Events on (02) 9872 0329

Buy your Entertainment Books and raise funds for RIDBC here: www.ridbc.org.au/entertainmentbook

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7. 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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