In this issue:
- From the Chief Executive
- Tim now a mentor
- Distance no barrier to learning
- Maya is growing in confidence
- Natalie learning language
- What’s on at RIDBC
- Join the RIDBC conversation
- You can make a difference
There are so many wonderful things happening at RIDBC at present. We continue to be thrilled at the progress being made by children with hearing or vision loss and their families in Australia. We profi le four of these amazing stories in this edition and I trust you enjoy reading on.
RIDBC presently offers services across Australia, largely through the innovative work of RIDBC Teleschool. Strategically we have committed to extending our national footprint through new centres across Australia. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Darwin to meet with local service providers to better understand the need for RIDBC services in the region.
I can now proudly announce that we have located an ideal Darwin site to be able to extend RIDBC Teleschool services, as well as provide face-to-face therapy and educational services, to children and families in the Northern Territory. I look forward to updating you further on this important development.
Robert’s story, profi led in this edition, demonstrates the importance of RIDBC Teleschool in using videoconferencing technology to assist families in remote and rural Australia. RIDBC Teleschool also provides the highest quality support by actively developing its approaches to teaching and therapy. It is this combination of technology, access to quality early intervention, and regular contact, that has enabled Robert and his family to minimise the ‘tyranny of distance’ and optimise his development.
We have our fair share of challenges in order to raise the funds critical for our services. Our annual Splash for Cash swimathon season is nearing completion and this year I challenged myself to swim five kilometres in support of RIDBC. Being far more comfortable on land, I’m now looking forward to running the 2012 City to Surf and I hope to see you there. Registration details are in this edition.
When Tim enrolled on RIDBC Teleschool in 2010 he never suspected that he would meet his role model and become an inspiration to children living with vision loss and their families.
From Cootamundra in NSW, 14 year old Tim lost most of his usable sight when he was nine and a half.
“When we discovered RIDBC we immediately enrolled Tim with RIDBC Teleschool, which has been a fantastic support to our family and to Tim’s school,” said Tim’s mother, Kristin.
RIDBC Teleschool works with children and families across Australia via in-home or inschool videoconferencing. As part of the program, families are invited to participate in a residential Braille Week at RIDBC in Sydney.
For children who are blind, braille means literacy and numeracy, but without expert assistance it’s not easy to learn.
The Week aims to immerse young children in a braille rich environment, exposing them to a range of assistive technologies and fast tracking their progress.
Tim first participated in Braille Week in 2011, when he spoke to attendees from his school via Skype.
“I spoke about how I’d built a games table in my woodwork class, which I was proud of.”
Tim received an incredible amount of positive feedback about his speech.
“The families were so impressed – they found Tim such an inspiration. I think Tim was really surprised at being held in such high regard by others with vision loss, and their parents,” said Tricia d’Apice, RIDBC Teleschool Consultant.
In 2012, Tim and his family decided to attend Braille Week in Sydney, where Tim acted as a mentor to the younger children, teaching them how to play blind cricket and to read stories in braille. He was also given the opportunity to meet Dawson Ko.
“Dawson is an inspiration to me. He lost his vision but went on to university and to become a black belt in karate. It was great to meet him and to tell him how much I look up to him,” said Tim.
For the children and families who attend Braille Week, it is also a rare chance to socialise with other families.
Diagnosed with genetic deafness at birth, Robert and his family have been accessing expert early intervention through RIDBC Teleschool from the time Robert was 12 months old. The family is now working hard to give him the best preparation for school.
Four year old Robert was born with severe hearing loss as was his older brother, Jacob, and his dad, Grant. His mum, Nicole, knew that expert early intervention was needed to give Robert the best start.
However, living on a 5000 acre property, 700 km from Adelaide the family does not have access to a lot of services.
“The closest speech pathologist is 140km away and in the fi rst year we made 14 trips to Adelaide. I definitely feel that I’m the case manager for the boys, keeping track of appointments and their progress!”
“The only constant for my family has been RIDBC. Robert has really benefi ted and I now feel feel we’re going to be better prepared for school in May.”
Nicole and his RIDBC Teleschool teacher, Helen Tomlinson, have worked hard to get Robert ready for this transition.
When children with hearing loss fi rst start school it can be a daunting time.
“Children often lose confidence when they go to school because they go from one-on-one lessons to a noisy classroom where they can miss information or instructions,” said Helen.
“We are working on listening activities, discriminating sounds, words and sentences in noisy conditions, teaching Robert language for the classroom and also greater clarity with his expressive language.”
Nicole says she’s so grateful for the service and the support it has given her family.
“Without early intervention Robert would have been on the back foot starting school. He’s such a confi dent little boy, I don’t want him to lose that confidence when he gets to school,” she said.
Working on independent communication skills away from his family members Robert will have the skills he needs to speak up when he doesn’t understand in the classroom.
“I know he’s on the right track now to enjoy school and do really well,” said Nicole.
Maya, who is almost six years old, is receiving support from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s (RIDBC) Alice Betteridge School to develop her speech, language and confidence with her peers.
The birth of Lora and Millen’s baby, Maya, was a happy occasion. Then, when Maya was almost two, she was admitted to hospital and treated for the flu.
There Maya’s health deteriorated and she was diagnosed with a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the body.
“You don’t expect your child to get a ‘cold’ and then go in to hospital and come out unable to walk or talk or see,” said Maya’s father, Millen.
Maya was diagnosed with significant vision loss and was referred to the RIDBC VisionEd Early Learning Program where she received twice weekly home visits for two years.
“It was amazing to receive so much support. Our RIDBC Consultant, Tricia Geniale, was a wonderful listener who really took the time to understand the challenges Maya faced,” said Millen.
“When Tricia suggested Maya go to RIDBC Alice Betteridge School, we jumped at the opportunity.
“Maya is now making remarkable improvements. Her vocabulary is expanding and she is forming sentences.”
RIDBC Alice Betteridge School caters for school-age students from Kindergarten to Year 12 with a signifi cant hearing or vision loss as well as a level of intellectual impairment.
“When Maya arrived she was very shy, so we are working on her confidence in expressing herself,” said RIDBC Alice Betteridge School Teacher, Elizabeth Marret.
“Maya loves books, so we’re using predictable stories with repeated lines to work on her reiteration and listening skills. She now knows the sounds of all the letters in the alphabet.
“Both Lora and Millen are very involved, which is another reason she is doing so well.”
Lora and Millen are thrilled with the progress their little girl is making.
“Maya can now count from one to ten in four languages! She has a wonderful sense of humour – she’ll give you the wrong answer to a question just to try and trick you,” said Millen.
With help from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s (RIDBC) Nepean Preschool, Natalie is learning to listen and speak with the assistance of a cochlear implant and a hearing aid.
When Gemma and Sam’s little girl, Natalie, was diagnosed with a rare blood cell disorder at six months of age, the family started on a tumultuous journey.
After intensive medical treatments Natalie was admitted to a hospice for palliative care. Gemma and Sam were told that she would not survive.
Then something remarkable happened – Natalie went into remission.
“We were ecstatic, so a late diagnosis of hearing loss was a major shock,” said Gemma. “Thankfully we found RIDBC Nepean Preschool. The intensity of the language focus is amazing.”
RIDBC Nepean Preschool is a reverse integration preschool where community children are schooled alongside children with hearing or vision loss, acting as language and learning models for their peers.
“Having the Preschool program incorporate intensive, expert therapy is fantastic. Natalie is now four but she lost so much time when she was in hospital. We needed to address her hearing loss whilst also providing a lot of ‘normal’ access to her peers,” said Gemma.
“Her RIDBC teacher is working on accelerating Natalie’s progress, focusing on her interests.”
“We are using play, books, games, conversation, labelling and modelling,” said RIDBC Nepean Preschool Teacher, Andrea Walker. “We also provide language experiences that can be followed up at home to build continuity.”
Gemma looked to RIDBC for support when Natalie received her cochlear implant in 2011.
“Being at RIDBC Nepean Preschool is very reassuring. We’re now noticing a huge difference in Natalie’s language skills, behaviour and ability to follow instructions,” said Gemma.
“We are so grateful – without RIDBC Natalie wouldn’t be coming along as fast as she is.”
Save the date!
The RIDBC annual Book Toy and Music Fair is now bigger and better than ever. For the first time the event will be open to the general public for three days, so come down to RIDBC North Rocks and find a bargain!
- Friday 22 June to Sunday 24 June, 8am – 3pm
Don’t forget to select RIDBC as your chosen charity for these upcoming events:
- 20 May Sydney Half Marathon
- 12 August The Sun Herald City to Surf
Buy your Entertainment Books here and help raise funds for RIDBC: www.ridbc.org.au/entertainmentbook
Over $20,000 was raised in 2011!
You can be part of the RIDBC community online by following us on Twitter and Facebook
To subscribe to the new RIDBC e-newsletter go to www.ridbc.org.au/newsletter
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 Elise Taylor 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 a range of merchandise available to purchase. To request a catalogue, call 1800 111 474 or visit www.ridbc.org.au/shop.