Bao’s Story: Breaking down the communication barriers


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    When we met nine year old Bao, he had just arrived from Vietnam two months earlier to be reunited with his mum Jenny and dad Sunny after seven years living apart. Bao has been profoundly deaf since birth and when he came to Australia, he had no formal language and no ability to communicate even with his own mum and dad.

    Bao came to Australia with no formal language

    Bao came to Australia with no formal language

    We worked all kinds of jobs and saved up all our money for Bao to get a cochlear implant in Vietnam. We were trying to finish our studies but we always felt that if Bao wasn’t accepted in Australia, we would need to go back to Vietnam to live with him. It took so long to convince the government but eventually, they accepted Bao and we are all now citizens.
    When Bao came to Australia with Thoa, he would only respond to her. It was a hard time for all of us trying to find ways to communicate. Bao was frustrated, upset and angry a lot of the time. A big part of that was our struggle to communicate and understand each other. He struggled to express his opinions and his feelings to anyone.

    We also learned that Bao had been traumatised by his experiences at his Vietnamese boarding school. No one had understood him and Bao was bullied, punished and hit a lot. He was very scared and the only time he felt safe was when he visited his grandma on weekends. When he came to Australia, Bao still felt too afraid to sleep alone.

    It has made such a huge difference in all our lives. Keshanee has given us so much information and guidance, and DCA was also able to help Bao with his emotional wellbeing and behaviour.
    While Bao was progressing with his Auslan at school, DCA helped all of us to learn Auslan together. Keshanee gave us Auslan books and cards so we could play games with Bao and learn how to communicate better. Keshanee arranged a DCA tutor and Deaf mentor. We have already learned a lot and when my new business is more under control, I want to spend one or two days a week learning more Auslan with Bao.

    Bao sharing a moment with his family

    Bao sharing a moment with his family

    At school, Bao is trying hard and improving. Of course it’s still challenging and sometimes it’s hard for him to focus but he is trying to catch up with the other students and he is good at maths. Maths is easier for Bao to understand of course without so many words. He has good friends and signs with them on FaceTime even when he’s at home. Bao never feels alone any more.
    In two weeks, his grandma Thoa will return to Vietnam to live. Bao will miss her very much but we know he will be able to cope now. Thankfully, his other grandma will then visit to help care for Bao and our baby, Vincent.
    Bao is going so well. Keshanee helped us set important goals and we have reached so many of those goals now. Bao is very calm and happy now. Being able to communicate has changed his whole life.”

    Jenny added, “Now we are all so happy. We can understand the same language. Bao knows how much we love him and he has learned how to say ‘I love you’ back to us.”

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