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Governor-General lends voice to charity

DARLINGTON: On Thursday February 2 the Governor-General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AC CVO, visited the Shepherd Centre in Abercrombie Street to learn more about vital services and programs offered, and to celebrate the recent positive outcomes achieved by the Centre’s 2011 graduates writes Andrew Collis in the South Sydney Herald of March 2012.

Staff, children and family members were thrilled to meet the Governor-General and Mr Bryce. Songs were sung by deaf and hearing- impaired children to demonstrate the children’s ability to listen and speak due to an Early Intervention program that focuses on training parents as teachers. Skills are further developed through integration of children into family

life and the wider community, highlighting speech, language and vocabulary. The aim is that children will enter their local mainstream schools in a fully integrated environment once they are school aged.

The early intervention program provides families with 1:1 auditory-verbal therapy, audiology and family support sessions, and group sessions such as a weekly playgroup and a parent support group.

Mother Ingrid and daughter Maja, who is diagnosed with mild-to-moderately-severe hearing loss, are regular participants of the Shepherd Centre and playgroup. “Maja comes every week, she loves babies,” Ingrid said, explaining that Maja has a hearing aid that compresses very loud and soft sounds. “She’s happy here, she’s doing really well.”

Data just released from the Shepherd Centre shows that the majority of children with additional needs (children who have entered early intervention after 12 months of age, have additional disabilities or are from a non-English speaking background) scored in the “typical” range for vocabulary. One third of this group scored in the typical range for language and the overall average language score was just outside the typical range of their hearing peers. In addition, almost all of the children without additional needs achieved scores within the typical range for vocabulary and language.

The Shepherd Centre is one of six charities represented by advocacy group, First Voice, officially launched in October 2010 by the Governor-General, who is the group’s patron. Ms Bryce said: “Nine to 12 Australian children in every 10,000 are born with moderate or serious hearing loss in both ears, 23 more per 10,000 will acquire a hearing impairment that requires aids by the age of 17, 54 per cent of our Indigenous children suffer some form of hearing loss.”

Sheila Salunke has 12 years experience as a listening and spoken language specialist, and has been working at the Shepherd Centre since 2011. “We are specialising in the AVT [auditory-verbal therapy] process,” she explained. “It’s so satisfying working with these kids and knowing that there’s a good success rate for them within age appropriateness in terms of their language and their speech.”

For more information about the Shepherd Centre, including its First Sounds Cochlear Implant and Residential Workshop programs, contact the Centre on 1800 020 030.

Photo: Andrew Collis Governor-General Quentin Bryce with children and parents at the Shepherd Centre’s playgroup in Darlington

Youth of Today, A regular article on local youth and related issues is kindly sponsored by Appetite Café 82 Regent St Redfern 9699 4069.

Source: South Sydney Herald March 2012 -