My daughter was born deaf– Ensure children like Charlie don’t get bullied at school.

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The diagnosis of Charlie’s hearing loss came as a shock! Even before leaving the hospital, I was told that my baby needed further hearing checks because she failed the State Wide Infant Screening Hearing (SWISH). Charlie was diagnosed at birth with moderate-severe hearing loss in her right ear and severe-profound hearing loss in her left ear. This diagnosis left our family rattled and unsure of what the future held for Charlie.

I was devastated, I wasn’t sure what to do until I found The Shepherd Centre. A world-leading service, they told me that Charlie would get therapy through their Early Intervention program and that she could have the same speaking and listening abilities as any other child. Their expertise gave me confidence that I had found the right support for my child.

When she turned four, I was petrified of the idea of her starting big school, will she be ok on her own? Am I able to choose the right school? Will she be confident and speak up if anything goes wrong? Will she be bullied? Will her classmates see beyond her cochlear implants?

Many questions and uncertainties arose but the team at The Shepherd Centre told me that their Off to School program was designed to address these concerns.

What a relief! The Off to School program gave her a head start and basic understanding of a classroom setting (sitting, listening, turn-taking), phonics, sounds and rhyming, valuable tools considering children with hearing loss find the noisy school setting a challenge. For a deaf child, listening can be exhausting, which affects their ability to learn. The program gave Charlie confidence and age-appropriate tools that she otherwise wouldn’t have received.

I picked up great tips about exactly what was needed for Charlie before she started school. Hearing other parents speak about their experiences and meeting older graduates empowered me to know what to expect and what to address with the school and teachers prior to starting.

With the cut of funding from the Department of Education, children with hearing loss will miss out on lifelong skills!

When I was told about the funding cuts, I was absolutely heartbroken for all the upcoming families that would potentially miss out. This would put extra stress on the school system, with teachers and parents having to compensate the additional needs of children with hearing loss. The programs empower the child to advocate for their hearing needs, skills that will carry them throughout their education and beyond.

All children deserve to have the best start and chance in their education and we and the government should be doing anything possible to give them that. 

Off to School allowed Charlie to be superstar! She is getting awards, great feedback from her teacher and making new friends by the day! She is speaking up and advocating for herself, taking charge of her equipment - troubleshooting her sound processors, changing batteries and asking the teacher to wear a microphone. This a lot on a 5 year old child but she was well prepared for all of it and it has long-term payoff for her. Charlie is picking up things quickly and I couldn’t be more proud! I thank The Shepherd Centre for all of this.

Don’t all kids with hearing loss deserve the skills to thrive at school? These programs help our kids inside the classroom and out on the playground.

Recently The Shepherd Centre has been providing Off to School programs from its own reserves and with some support from donors and the local community. This is not sustainable on the long run and the Government should play a role in funding that vital program so all children like Charlie can get the best start to school.

I'm pleading with you – Please help more children with hearing loss prepare for a smooth transition to school by sharing my petition. We need all the help we can get!