DC Fit Masthead

Starting school with The Shepherd Centre

Molly McLaughlin

Starting school can be an overwhelming time for a four or five year old.

Sometimes it’s the first time they have been away from their parents for a full day. The primary school they attend can be a huge and confusing place with unfamiliar teachers and classmates. School can be fun and exciting, but it also takes some adjusting to. Especially if this student is deaf.

This year a record number of deaf children will start their first day of Kindergarten in mainstream schools across NSW, ACT and Tasmania, many of them with help from The Shepherd Centre. The Shepherd Centre is a children’s charity dedicated to providing early intervention therapy for children with hearing loss and their families and gives deaf children the skills they need to attend school with their friends.

Jim Hungerford, Chief Executive Officer of The Shepherd Centre, knows the students who have attended the centre are well prepared.

Image via shepherdcentre.org.au

Children ‘graduating’ from early intervention therapy at The Shepard Centre. Image via shepherdcentre.org.au

“The majority of these children were diagnosed with hearing loss shortly after they were born, and have received regular speech and language therapy, some along with hearing devices such as cochlear implants, since they were just a few months old. It is safe to say these children and their parents have been preparing for the first day of school for almost their entire lives!” he said.

One of these children is Pearce local five-year old Jovern Loh. Jovern was diagnosed with moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss when he failed the mandatory SWISH hearing test at three days old. His family has been attending support sessions at The Shepherd Centre since Jovern was only a few months old. Jovern can’t wait to start school at Mawson Primary with speech and language skills that match those of his classmates.

Jovern’s mother, Li San, said the whole family has benefited from Jovern’s sessions at The Shepherd Centre. “They really helped us to understand what he needed to do to progress and guide us with how to help our family understand what the diagnosis really meant.”

Deafness is one of the most common disabilities at birth, affecting about one in 1,000 babies born each year, but with early intervention deaf children can be ready to attend kindergarten. It costs almost $20,000 per year, per child, to provide the essential therapy needed to allow them to learn to listen and speak.

To donate to The Shepherd Centre visit shepherdcentre.org.au or call 1800 020 030.

Image of ‘…elementary students…‘ via Shutterstock


Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin was less than thrilled to move to Canberra a couple of years ago to study Arts and Economics at ANU, but she can confirm the city has grown on her since then. Along with writing for HerCanberra, she spends her time reading, eating noodles and planning her next adventure. More about the Author