Jack's deaf-defying progress: photos

Listening to Jack Debnam-Koning read aloud in class, he seems like any other delighted Year 1 student exploring the life cycles of silkworms.

‘‘They lay about 500 eggs before they die!’’ the six-year-old beamed, at the opportunity to pass on his newfound knowledge to classmates.

Language and literature are two of Jack’s strong points, despite being born profoundly deaf.

‘‘It’s very rare to have someone like Jack who has such a high literacy (level) because usually it’s an area that children with cochlear implants struggle a bit with,’’ his Mount Terry Public School teacher Louise Morgan explained.

‘‘Even in conversation his language is far beyond that of a Year 1 student.’’

Historically children with hearing loss have struggled to develop spoken language and literacy skills at the same rate as their peers.

However a new, three-year research project by The Shepherd Centre has revealed early intervention programs providing listening and speech therapies can give them the extra help they need.

Children with hearing loss not only match the language performance of their peers, but reap the social benefits associated with more developed speech.

“We know that early intervention helps children with hearing loss develop above-average spoken language skills,’’ The Shepherd Centre chief executive Jim Hungerford said.

‘‘Now we also know that these children can succeed as well as their hearing peers in social situations.’’

Jack, who was fitted with cochlear implants as a baby, attended weekly speech therapy at The Shepherd Centre until he reached school age.

His mum, Meredith Koning, said the program had helped his development immensely.

‘‘He’s on par with all of his peers - well, he’s excelling, actually,’’ she said.

‘‘The early intervention (therapies) have been fantastic; it is by all means the best thing you can do for a child, to get in and do it straight away ... it is just fantastic what it has achieved.’’

For Jack it means he can attend school with his twin sister Grace, play after-school sport with friends and learn just like any other child.

‘‘My favourite things to read are Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s dairy (books) - they have very easy words.’’


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