Ever since Natalija Mladenovic was diagnosed as profoundly deaf as a baby, Loud Shirt Day has become an important part of her family’s lives. Every year Natalija, her parents Sofi and Doug, and her two brothers come together to raise funds and awareness during Loud Shirt Day to support other children with hearing loss reach their full potential.
In fact, the family became so invested in this important cause that Sofi has become part of the NextSense fundraising team. Sofi works on community projects such as Loud Shirt Day to spread the word about the importance of support to the lives of those with hearing loss and their families.
How early intervention was key to Natalija receiving cochlear implants
Natalija was just four weeks old when she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, six weeks old when she was fitted with her first hearing aids, and 10 months old when she received bilateral cochlear implants (an implant in both ears).
‘We chose to receive support from NextSense because we wanted Natalija to receive the best opportunity to prosper and adapt to her new cochlear implants, while having the option to learn Auslan,’ says Sofi.
Through the early intervention services Natalija received, Sofi and Doug gained the knowledge, skills, and confidence they needed to best support their daughter as she grew.
‘Our therapist provides support to our child and holds our hand and guides us on how to help further support our child at home and in the school environment. The support we receive from our centre is invaluable,’ Sofi says.
Sofi also joined a NextSense playgroup, where Natalija could have her feeds and fall asleep, her brother could played with the other children and Sofi could talk to the parents about their journey.
— says Sofi.
This was my support group. My safe place. It was all very new and raw, so sometimes I would just sit there and listen to the other parents and just take it all in. I would watch other children with their hearing devices on go about their play time and chat to their friends and parents. It was very comforting.
Now eight, Natalija is thriving at school and in life—she attends her local primary school, plays in her local basketball team, is learning Japanese, and her speech is at the same level as her hearing peers.
‘She is an intelligent, strong, confident, happy, and loving gorgeous girl,’ says Sofi.
‘She self-advocates and raises awareness about hearing loss and cochlear implants whenever she can.’
Getting loud for children with hearing loss
Loud Shirt Dayis an opportunity to wear your wackiest shirt to celebrate, increase community awareness, and raise funds to ensure children with hearing loss, like Natalija, receive the support they need.
This year Loud Shirt Day is on Friday 21 October, but you can wear it loud on a day that suits you.
The day has come to be an important part of the Mladenovic family’s lives.
— Sofi says.
I love giving back to the organisation that has helped my daughter and my family and I love connecting with other families. We all have very different diagnoses, different journeys but we all want one thing—the best for our children
‘And this is why we celebrate Loud Shirt Day. To raise awareness about hearing loss in children and the devices they wear and to celebrate their achievements and milestones.’
Following two years of COVID lockdowns, Sofi, Natalija, and their family are eager to get back out there to celebrate children with hearing loss.
You can learn more about their efforts on their Loud Shirt Day profile.