When we met twelve year old Janith, his family was in crisis and Janith was suffering from trauma. When he was referred to DCA, the family were about to be evicted from their home. Janith’s teacher was very concerned about Janith’s emotional wellbeing and indeed, the whole family’s wellbeing after everything they had already been through.
When Janith was five years old, and his little brothers Pasindu and Ravindu were aged three and two, the family travelled from their Australian home to Sri Lanka for a supposed holiday. While in Sri Lanka, Janith developed pneumonia for the second time in his short life. His mum Thanuja was concerned that after he had recovered, Janith didn’t seem to be able to hear well from his left ear. Then every mother’s worst nightmare occurred.
With no warning, Thanuja’s husband disappeared with all three of their children. He hid out, refusing any contact. The three young boys were suddenly cut off from their mum, traumatising them – and Janith never got the medical care he needed.
Thanuja explains, “I was desperate to get my children back but I was powerless in Sri Lanka. I had to return to Australia as they are Australian born – and my only hope was a legal battle. The Attorney-General’s Department helped me through the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Ours was the first case that the Australian and Sri Lankan Governments worked on together, so we were very fortunate. We won our case in the High Court of Sri Lanka and after one and a half years of being forced apart, I finally had my children again.
“As soon as we were reunited, I realised Janith’s hearing was still damaged. I took him straight to the hospital and they told me he had permanent hearing loss.”
Keshanee has been working with the family over the past year and fortunately, has been able to communicate in their first language of Sinhalese as well as English. Thanuja expressed her concern to Keshanee about the impact of the past trauma on Janith, and the impacts of his deteriorating hearing. Keshanee linked in with other DCA Services to help Janith to strengthen his emotional wellbeing, and be able to self-regulate his emotions when he was feeling frustrated or upset. Keshanee has been helping Thanuja put successful strategies in place to help with Janith’s behavioural challenges, and encourage Janith to become more independent. Over the past year, these strategies have empowered Janith and Thanuja to build up a network of support, and access all available services.
When Janith was assessed at the Cochlear Implant Clinic, Keshanee was able to help Thanuja and Janith understand the complex medical information in terms of Janith’s hearing loss. She supported Janith and Thanuja as they grappled with the decision on whether they should go ahead with a cochlear implant. Janith’s hearing had been progressively deteriorating in both ears but as Thanuja explained, “They couldn’t tell us how much hearing Janith would lose and how quickly he would lose it”.
Janith and Thanuja had to weigh up whether to risk Janith’s residual hearing for the benefits they could potentially achieve with the implants. Janith decided he wanted to get bi-lateral implants before starting secondary school. Keshanee provided support during some of the medical appointments and was at the hospital when Janith came out of surgery. Thankfully, the operation was a success but Janith is still adjusting to the different way of processing sounds through his cochlear implants. As he expressed, “Sometimes sounds are still too loud”. Every child needs the right supports around them to make the best use of the technology.
Janith reinforced that, adding, “It’s easier for me to learn at school now. My goal is to be a doctor when I grow up so I can help people. Maybe I can do operations too.”