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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2240 ..


I spoke to the parents and I spoke to the staff and I learned about cochlear implants, or bionic ears, and found out how important they are and what an impact they have had on the lives of young children. But a cochlear implant is not something that is simply implanted in your ear and then you can hear; you must learn how to hear. It is a different process, and you have then got to learn how to speak. It is not as simple as hearing as you and I know it; it is a very different sound that comes in which has then got to be interpreted by the young child.

The parents told me of the shock and confusion they felt when they were informed by doctors that their children were deaf. If you put yourself in their shoes and you were being told by a doctor that your child is deaf, you might appreciate the confusion, the shock, the horror and the desperation. All of the parents told me that, after they had got over their initial shock, after they had struggled to find a way through the situation they found themselves in, the Shepherd Centre played a very vital role in their lives in providing advice, in providing stability and providing what they need to help their young children.

However, despite the terrible adversity that I saw at the Shepherd Centre, what I heard about the experiences of the young children and the parents were actually stories of hope and of success. The success of the Shepherd Centre comes in two parts: one is the focus on training parents. The focus is that the parents are trained in how to train their children, and it is actually the parents who graduate from the program, because they are the ones who need to train their children. What this ensures is that the children get ongoing training, 24 hours a day or whenever the parents are there rather than just during a limited visit to the centre.

It is a great approach; it is embraced by the parents. I had the privilege of watching one of the staff provide that lesson in a booth with the two parents and the child doing that training together. You could see the staff member showing the parents how to interact with the child and how to teach that young child how to communicate, how to speak, how to listen and how to work and function as a young child despite a hearing impairment.

The second part of its success focuses on early intervention. It is by teaching parents and children early in the child’s life that the child then is allowed to flourish. What it means is that, rather than the child becoming someone who is characterised as someone with a disability and going throughout life with a hearing impairment, by intervening early you make sure that that child can progress and flourish with similar children of their own age—their peers. Most of the children who go through the Shepherd Centre move on to preschool, they move on to school, and they can work as effective members of this community, as productive children, as part of a normal, mainstream school. That is what we should be focusing on in our health system. It is the rhetoric we hear all the time, and this is an example of an organisation that is putting that rhetoric into practice here in the ACT.

In addition to the benefit to the individual is the cost-benefit. By addressing the situation early, by allowing that child to access mainstream schooling and lessen their dependency on disability services, that is a cost saving. I do not know what the


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