At the age of six, Farnia, who is profoundly deaf, was struggling to communicate with her family and everyone around her. She had just come to Australia after being invited to settle here with her parents as refugees. We can only imagine what she had been through. Thankfully, Farnia’s life was about to change in so many ways.
Farnia lost her hearing in detention
Farnia was born in Iran in 2007 and when she was just a three year old little girl, was forced to flee with her mum Elham and dad Mohsen. They arrived as asylum seekers in Indonesia and were held in an Indonesian detention centre for six months. Farnia’s mum Elham told us, “During this time, Farnia lost her hearing. When I called out to her, she wouldn’t answer any more. We don’t know what happened.”
We can only imagine what it was like to be a deaf child living in the crowded, distressing conditions of an Indonesian detention centre. Despite the love of her parents who were doing everything they could to care for her, Farnia must have felt isolated and traumatised.
Elham added, “When we got out of detention, we tried to get help for Farnia. It was a long time before we were given refugee status and offered resettlement in Australia. In that time, it was hard to get health services in Indonesia. After waiting a year, she was able to see an ear specialist. He told us he didn’t know why Farnia became deaf. I kept trying to get more help for her. After waiting another year, they tested Farnia’s hearing and told us she should wear hearing aids.”
Farnia found it too difficult to manage with the hearing aids. She had poor audiological support in Indonesia to help her adjust and she refused to wear the hearing aids because the wall of noise she was experiencing was making her too uncomfortable. And as Elham explained, “Without the hearing aids, Farnia couldn’t hear anything.”
Farnia was struggling to communicate with her family in Persian and she wouldn’t have been able to learn Indonesian or English. No one had taught her sign language. Despite the fact that she was out of detention, Farnia was still effectively isolated from other children and the wider community in so many ways because of her language barriers.
Beginning a new life
In 2013, after three years in Indonesia, Farnia and her parents had the opportunity to come to Australia to begin their new life.
Deaf Children Australia’s Family Support Worker Alice started assisting Farnia when she and her family were considering cochlear implants. Alice has implants herself and she could help Farnia and her family consider their options. After they chose to go ahead with the operation in February 2014, Alice helped Farnia adapt to the implants and the changes she experienced with her hearing.
Alice says, “When I started working with Farnia, she couldn’t communicate with me. She wasn’t confident speaking any language and would only whisper in her parents’ ears when I was with them.”
At the time, Farnia was attending an English Language School and Alice helped the family find a good school with a deaf facility to support Farnia. She recruited a volunteer, Taryn, to help Elham support Farnia with her English and homework. Alice connected Farnia with gymnastics classes and ensured staff were aware of Farnia’s hearing loss and could meet her needs. Farnia has made new friends there and has also made friends with other children who are deaf on DCA’s School Holiday Programs.
Farnia has been learning to communicate in Auslan and English with her friends and teachers, and her ability to communicate with her family in Persian has also improved. Alice reflects on the transition, “Farnia has changed so much since I met her. She is much more confident and I can see her strong personality now. She still has a long way to go in terms of continuing her language development as she has missed out on so much and she will have to work hard to keep up with her peers.” Farnia will need ongoing support at different stages of her life journey to enable her to reach her potential.
Elham adds, “Alice and Deaf Children Australia have helped so much with the school, the activities, and arranging our volunteer teacher Taryn. Alice is now going to set up music classes for Farnia at school too. Alice coordinates lots between the school and us – her support has meant so much.
“Farnia’s teachers are pleased with Farnia’s progress and she is much happier. Her only sadness now is that she has to wear such big devices with the implants. Sometimes, she cries at night about that and because without the implants, she can’t hear. Farnia asks, ‘Why can’t I hear normally?’ But Alice helps her feel better. We want to thank Alice and the whole organisation for their support.”