Eight-year-old Sofia, who has cochlear implants in both ears, performs in eisteddfods, plays netball and has literacy skills that are just as good as her hearing peers.
Her mum, Michelle, puts Sofia’s achievements down to intensive family support, Sofia’s tenacity and the support of NextSense, led by their key worker.
In Sofia’s case, her key worker is Sharon Hurt, Speech Pathologist and NextSense Best Practice Lead, Cochlear Implantation Rehabilitation.
‘I have worked with Sofia since she was six months old when she was being assessed for candidacy for cochlear implants. She was implanted in both ears soon after,’ Sharon says.
‘I worked intensively with Sofia at first, to develop her listening, speech and language, monitored her needs and connected with her community supports to ensure she could achieve her potential.’
The NextSense key worker model puts a member of each child’s care team around the child at the centre of coordinating the needs of the child and their family. For children who receive cochlear implants, this ongoing relationship also includes mapping of the device, and technical support.
‘Now she is older, Sofia knows exactly what to do with her cochlear implants. That’s what's so lovely about being a key worker—staying in touch, building that relationship over time, observing the child growing up, and as for Sofia, becoming more and more independent with her technology and listening needs’ Sharon says.
Parent advocacy for children with hearing loss is key
Sofia’s mum Michelle has been a strong advocate for getting the right support right from the start.
‘Sofia has taken on every challenge she has faced and surpassed all our expectations. From the moment her cochlear implants were switched on at six months we knew that nothing was going to stop her,’ Michelle says.
‘We chose Cochlear implants for Sofia as the best technology available, and combined with early intervention, we knew she would have the best chance at learning to listen and speak.’
‘Children who are deaf can go on and achieve great things, and it's important to always acknowledge they are deaf, because when they take their hearing aids or cochlears off, they are still deaf and they will always be’.
The importance of Deaf identity
— Sofia's mum, Michelle.
Being deaf is an important part of Sofia's identity and I wouldn’t want her any other way. It's something we embrace and celebrate.
Initially, Michelle was overwhelmed when the family found out Sofia was deaf, but once they spoke to NextSense, they understood what was possible. From early on, Sofia’s parents and siblings created many opportunities for her to develop listening skills and spoken language.
Sofia’s parents put the work in, doing therapy with Sofia every day, which was intensive for the family, but they knew it was necessary for Sofia to attain her speech and hearing goals and work closely with therapists.
‘The NextSense therapists are so caring, they really do invest a lot of emotional support with their children, that’s why we have always loved coming to NextSense.
By age two, Sofia had achieved speech and hearing equal to other children her age. Her incidental listening got better as she got older, and today, she can hear what is happening in the next room.
‘She’s just fantastic. Even now, I’ll do a double take. I’m in the kitchen and she’s in the other room, and I think there’s no way she can hear me, but she has. That is what the cochlear implant opens the door to.
— Sofia's mum, Michelle.
If you respect the process and put the work in, it can give you a fantastic outcome.