Jan 2018 Illawarra Mercury
Bedtime stories were once a struggle for Horsley mum Ashleigh Butterfield, with her little boy Koby seemingly unwilling to lie still and listen. It wasn’t until Koby was four, that she discovered that he had never been able to properly hear those stories due to bilateral hearing loss. Now fitted with a cochlear implant in his left ear – and a hearing aid in his right – he’s more than ready to listen and to learn when he starts ‘big school’.
The five-year-old is one of 43 deaf or hearing impaired children who will join their hearing peers in mainstream Kindergarten classrooms this year thanks to the support of The Shepherd Centre.
For Mrs. Butterfield, and husband Daniel, the Wollongong centre has been their “lifeline” since Koby’s diagnosis. “Without The Shepherd Centre, we would have no idea what to do next,” she says. “They have been an incredible help in understanding Koby’s diagnosis and how we help him grow and reach his full potential.”
Mrs. Butterfield said Koby’s diagnosis had come as a complete shock, with no family history of hearing impairment. ‘’Koby had had grommets inserted as it was thought he had middle ear problems, but we didn’t know the extent of his hearing loss until he was diagnosed last February,’’ Mrs. Butterfield said. “It had affected his behaviour and his willingness to learn – I couldn’t even read a book to him at night.
Now his interest in reading is growing and he’s so excited about starting school – he put on his uniform this week and wouldn’t even take it off when we went shopping.’’
Koby will continue to work hard on his growing speech and language skills with The Shepherd Centre, while attending mainstream classes at Hayes Park Public School with the assistance of an itinerant teacher.
Centre CEO Dr Jim Hungerford said the first day of school was a ‘’special milestone’’ for children who were deaf or hearing impaired. “For many of these families, they’ve really been preparing for the first day of school for almost their entire lives,’’ he said. “The majority were diagnosed with hearing loss shortly after birth, and they’ve since received regular speech and language therapy from us – some with help from hearing devices such as cochlear implants – since they were just a few months old.’’