Lake Illawarra parents Melindie and Duncan Best have relied on The Shepherd Centre to help their two hearing-impaired sons flourish.
Son Caleb, 11, is now enjoying Year 5 with his hearing peers thanks to the early intervention from the children's charity, while 16-month-old Daniel is at the start of his learning journey.
The boys - who have three siblings - both have bilateral hearing loss which was picked up during a newborn hearing screening test. Now fitted with cochlear implants, they share a close bond.
"The Shepherd Centre has given us the skills to empower us to teach our kids how to listen and speak, which enables them to interact with the world around them," Mrs Best said.
"Without the generous support of donors, our family would not have had the tools and knowledge to ensure they can access sounds, and develop speaking and language skills."
Mrs Best said she was shocked when Caleb was diagnosed with hearing loss, and thrown into a world in which she was unfamiliar.
"We were sent to Sydney children's hospital and started hearing phrases like 'significant hearing loss' and other terminology and we were just overwhelmed," she said.
"The Shepherd Centre helped us unpack all that language and information and have more of a understanding of what we - and Caleb - faced and what our options were."
When Daniel was subsequently diagnosed with genetic hearing loss, it was less of a shock, and the couple again turned to the centre for help.
"Early intervention is now helping Daniel develop speech and language skills and it's also playing a crucial role in his broader social development," Mrs Best said.
The NSW-based charity has now launched their 2020 Tax Appeal, with the aim of raising $188,600 to help provide vital support services for the more than 600 Australian families who turn to them for help each year.
CEO Jim Hungerford said unfortunately in Australia only 50 per cent of children with hearing loss were being supported by specialised early intervention services - which come at a cost of around $16,000 per child, per year.
"Every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential regardless of disability. We are committed to supporting as many families as possible to ensure that children with hearing loss aren't left behind," Mr Hungerford said.
"I am amazed each year at the kindness and capacity of our donors to dig deep - but especially so during what has, and continues to be, a difficult time for all Australians. They are helping us make a real difference for these families."
Mr Hungerford said most people didn't realise that deafness was the most common childhood disability, with one in every 1000 Australian babies born deaf and one in every 300 diagnosed with significant hearing loss by the time they reach school.
To donate or for details visit shepherdcentre.org.au
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