In 2014, Toowong Child Care Centre started a program for deaf and hearing impaired children.
“The whole point of this program is to help children who are deaf or hearing impaired to live a normal, happy life,” says Angeles Stark, Toowong Child Care Centre Director.
“These children join in with our regular program alongside everyone else; the only difference is they have an adult (an Auslan Language Model, or ‘ALM’) with them to interpret.”
Toowong Child Care partners with The Yeerongpilly Early Childhood Development Program (YECDP) to offer this important service, and Ms Stark says the response from the community and from families has been very positive.
“Most people who come to us have been referred by friends or loved ones, or by YECDP. There would certainly be a lot more families out there who could really benefit from this service; many simply don’t know we’re here yet.
“Several of our staff have taken courses in Auslan, and most of us have some basic knowledge to help us get by. It really is a whole new language to learn, and some manage that better than others. But it makes such a difference to a child if you can communicate with them in their own language and show that you care enough to learn.”
This year, two year old Halle has the distinction of being Toowong Child Care Centre’s only deaf participant. One day a week, she meets her ALM, Brad, who helps her interact with the other children and staff, which helps give her the confidence to simply be herself. Ms Stark hopes the program will begin to attract more participants in 2018 and beyond.
“We would love to see three or four deaf children playing and enjoying life together, and see how we can develop this program further from here. We’re already taking expressions of interest; give us a call!” she says.