For the past year, Gerringong toddler Ava Donlon has been moving forward in leaps and bounds after accessing early intervention at the Shepherd Centre.
Now, she is able to access the facilities in less than half the time, after the Shepherd Centre at the Flinders Child and Family Centre in Shellharbour opened.
Her mother Ashleigh Naous is thankful for all the help that the centre has provided for her 15-month-old daughter.
"To me, it feels like I have a normal hearing child," she said.
"I don't know how to put in words how beneficial it's been for her.
"It's not something that we could have given to her on our own."
Ms Naous discovered that Ava has bilateral profound hearing loss shortly after she was born.
For the family, this is the third Shepherd Centre they are accessing after moving to Gerringong from Sydney.
Before the opening, she had to travel an average of 40 minutes to access the centre at Wollongong.
"It 's not bad, but when you have got the logistics of travelling from the South Coast, and peak hours and traffic and a baby that's on a schedule, and nap times and feeding and all those things come into play, the logistics of it can become quite tricky."
Child and Family Counsellor & Regional Manager Illawarra / South Coast Sara Luscombe said this new centre will "alleviate pressure".
"We will be able to see even more children with hearing loss and support them in developing their speech, language and social skills so they can reach their full potential."
According to Shepherd Centre CEO Dr Jim Hungerford, there are approximately 270 children aged 0-14 across the Illawarra and South Coast who are deaf or have hearing loss.
"We reached the stage last year where we just could not support anymore children at our Wollongong Centre, but we were really aware there were a couple of dozen families on the South Coast who would really find it much easier to access a more local centre."
Mr Hungerford also mentioned that COVID meant most of their sessions had to be via Telehealth last year.
He said while about 95 per cent of children were able to maintain the full program, it was not the same as building rapport face to face.
"Many times they (parents) don't know another family whose got a child who's deaf or with a hearing loss," he said.
"That face-to-face support, and being able to meet other families, to meet other children, and talk one to one with the clinicians is critical," he added.
For more details visit shepherdcentre.org.au
The story Gerringong toddler gets access to hearing help faster, thanks to new southern centre first appeared in the Illawarra Mercury.
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