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Leon’s just six but he’s already learning two languages

For six-year-old Leon, being bilingual is a source of excitement and achievement.
Leon in his mother Jennifer's arms, both looking up and smiling. Photo has a pink background with a white wavy line.
  • Hearing

Leon has had cochlear implants in both ears since he was eight months old after being diagnosed with auditory neuropathy and permanent bilateral hearing loss. But due to his type of hearing loss, over time his listening skills improved with the introduction of Auslan – Australian Sign Language.

Leon’s family chose to introduce him to Auslan with the help of a Teacher of the Deaf – and he hasn’t looked back.

He has received early intervention and cochlear implant services through NextSense, as well as attending our Sign Bilingual Preschool, and now our school, where he participates in the sign bilingual program. Mum Jennifer has also valued the support from Leon’s early intervention specialist and one of our on-site psychologists.

I did all my research and decided to go with NextSense because the team was amazing and I liked that Leon could have access to spoken language and Auslan.

— Jennifer, Leon's mum

Learning Auslan has actually helped Leon’s spoken language and he is soaking up his language-rich environment.

For some families, there is not just one way to develop language. Research indicates that children can learn both spoken and sign language given adequate exposure to each language.

Teacher of the Deaf Katie has supported Leon and his family since he was a toddler.

‘It’s been really exciting seeing what he has been able to do, and the outcomes Leon has achieved. Auslan input has really helped him with his spoken language—he’s made connections between signs and words,’ Katie says.

Jennifer says it has been amazing to watch Leon thrive and make friends at school.

‘The preschool was right there at NextSense, so Leon started there at two and a half until it was time to start school. Then I didn’t need to look any further, because NextSense has a school as well—how awesome!’

‘It's been amazing to watch him grow in that environment, I feel very lucky that I found NextSense.’

Leon and Jennifer see his key worker and Teacher of the Deaf Katie once a week and the family is learning Auslan at home.

‘Leon runs into our sessions,’ says Katie. ‘He has gone from knowing a single Auslan sign to putting sentences together. It’s very rewarding to watch his growth and development continue to go on the up and up.’

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