Politicians are usually the ones holding court in our nation’s Parliament House but last month they gave the floor to some special guests instead—seven children with hearing loss who told them all about their journey with cochlear implants and the importance of speech.
NextSense client Abigail travelled all the way from Darwin for the Power of Speech event, hosted at Parliament House by Cochlear Australia and New Zealand and our fellow First Voice member organisation The Shepherd Centre.
Abigail travelled with her family and NextSense speech pathologist Hannah Wadsworth to join six 7-8-year-olds from other First Voice organisations to talk about their ‘hearing future’ (First Voice member organisations support best practice early intervention to help children who are deaf to listen and speak.)
They met Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and each of the children addressed a packed room of politicians, including Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill Shorten and Minister for Health Mark Butler. Abigail says she was excited and nervous, and she handled herself with true poise.
Born deaf, Abigail received bilateral cochlear implants at six months of age. The early intervention services she received from NextSense incorporated a bilingual approach, using spoken language and Auslan.
She and her family had weekly habilitation sessions with a NextSense therapist until her speech and language developed to the point where she no longer needed therapy.
Mum and I learnt so much from our listening therapy sessions. They were fun sessions and helped me to learn to hear, especially after I got my new cochlear magic ears.
‘These sessions also helped me to start using my voice. I attended listening therapy every week until I was about four years old. After that, I attended speech therapy every week until I was seven. Now I’m eight and very busy with life.’
Abigail spoke about the importance of hearing screening, which is how her parents found out she was deaf, ‘it was a big surprise to my parents that I was born deaf but it was also amazing and super interesting.'
She also thanked her listening and speech therapists who helped her learn to hear and speak, ‘they spent a lot of time with me and taught me some Auslan, they’re special to me because they do amazing jobs that help deaf children and their families very much,’ she said.
Abigail’s mum, Melinda, said a highlight of the Canberra trip for Abigail was giving her speech, following closely by the medal that each child received afterward.
‘The event was an opportunity to express some of the gratitude we feel for the support and assistance we have received from NextSense over the years,’ Melinda says. ‘The progress of all the children who gave speeches, in their listening and language ability, is a direct reflection of the important work that auditory verbal therapists and speech therapists carry out. Our thanks is nothing short of eternal.’
'Abigail delivered her speech beautifully and her cheeky sense of humour shone through, making the MPs present chuckle as they watched on,' said speech pathologist Hannah. 'She was confident and magnetic, and has done all of us at NextSense very proud.'
As NextSense Chief Executive Chris Rehn reflected on LinkedIn, quality early intervention services such as audiology and speech therapy, delivered in an evidence-based setting, mean that children with hearing loss can reach the same speech milestones as their hearing peers. This event ‘was certainly evidence of that, and a wonderful opportunity to show national decision-makers first-hand the impact of early intervention’.
NextSense supports families in choosing the language and communication approach best suited to their child and family’s needs.