Sandi Walters shares her story of her experiences with her first daughter Kaitlyn and why she has started the Parent Support Group ‘Hear Together Mornington Peninsula’ with support and encouragement from Deaf Children Australia.
When Kaitlyn was almost four, I was getting cross with her because she didn’t seem to be listening to me. Then I thought, ‘What if she can’t hear me?’ I felt like the worst parent. My dad and I have small ear canals so I thought maybe she has the same issue and her ears are blocked with wax. I tried calling her from another room. “Kaitlyn, do you want a lolly?” I thought any child would respond to that – but she didn’t come.
I took her to the GP and then the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist. Kaitlyn’s hearing test showed she had a low level of hearing. She had been lip reading and we had gone for some time without knowing. She had fluctuating hearing with so many ear infections and she has permanent nerve damage. Kaitlyn was fitted with hearing aids and it was like a rollercoaster ride because we didn’t know what to do next. Before the diagnosis, we enrolled Kaitlyn in a school, had done the transition program and had her excited about her new uniform. We soon found out that she was the first child at that school with a hearing impairment. I was concerned but she had help from a teacher’s aid and had more grommets inserted. Kaitlyn came through the first two years of school well and socially, she is great. She has very good speech and Kaitlyn has been learning sign language so we can use sign to communicate in noisy environments.
Our family and friends have been really supportive and we know older people with hearing aids who have been fantastic. But I wanted to start the Parent Support Group because at the time, I really wanted Kaitlyn to meet more children around her age who have shared similar experiences.
After twelve months of not knowing what to do, I had to learn to be very assertive for my child. I had to ask a lot of questions and demand what is in her best interests. When Kaitlyn was in Prep, I encouraged her school to apply for technology to help her in the classroom and assist future students with the same needs. At the end of Grade 1, we felt Kaitlyn would benefit from another school with a hearing unit. She moved there at the start of this year so she can be with other students with a hearing impairment and benefit from their specialist expertise. We have seen a remarkable improvement in Kaitlyn since the move and as a parent I have been overwhelmed by the support from the school.
As a Parent Support Group, we can support other parents dealing with the same issues and share our knowledge. Our group welcomes extended family members including children. It is a fun, relaxed environment and is open to all parents with a child that is deaf or has a hearing impairment of any kind.
I coordinate the local Toy Library so I thought we could run the Hear Together Parent Support Group from the Frankston Toy Library. My journey with Kaitlyn has made me more aware of the support needed for parents and I successfully applied for funding from the local Frankston City Council, Bendigo Bank and Lions Club to purchase educational toys and equipment for children who have a hearing or vision impairment, autism, down syndrome or other additional needs. I am so excited and proud to provide these programs for others.
For more information on the fun and informative Hear Together Mornington Peninsula Parent Support Group coordinated by Sandi, see contact details below. The group welcomes parents with children of all ages that have a hearing loss or deafness to their bi-monthly meetings at the Frankston Toy Library, 20 Ebdale Street, Frankston, Victoria. The group is affiliated with and supported by Deaf Children Australia and the Frankston Toy Library.