Help­ing break sound bar­ri­ers

Aus­tralia Day Am­bas­sador: Dim­ity Dor­nan

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Shirley Way

A CHANCE en­counter with a deaf boy led Aus­tralia Day Am­bas­sador and speech pathol­o­gist Dim­ity Dor­nan AO to pi­o­neer as­sis­tance for deaf chil­dren.

Dr Dor­nan re­called paus­ing to help a scream­ing boy on her way to work at Princess Alexan­dra Hos­pi­tal in Bris­bane.

“He was about 15, drum­ming his heels in the gut­ter, and wouldn’t stop scream­ing,” she said.

“As I was run­ning up the hill to get a doc­tor, a lady came out and signed: ‘Are you sick?’

“‘No, my bus money rolled into the drain’, he signed back.

“A num­ber of years later I worked with chil­dren with hear­ing loss in the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment, and I wanted to learn.”

Dur­ing her 1992 Churchill Fel­low­ship in Canada, she learned Au­di­tory-Ver­bal Ther­apy, which ed­u­cated par­ents to teach their child with a hear­ing loss – and hear­ing aid – how to lis­ten and speak.

In the same year, Dr Dor­nan opened the first of six non-profit Hear and Say Cen­tres, which now support about 65% of Queens­land chil­dren with hear­ing loss.

“I had far too many chil­dren for pri­vate prac­tice,” she said.

“I couldn’t phys­i­cally see them all and I wanted oth­ers to come and help me.”

The “pos­i­tively amaz­ing” re­sults of her 2011 PhD showed that a group of Hear and Say chil­dren and another group with nor­mal hear­ing “were able to progress at ex­actly the same rate”.

“The vast majority of them (hear­ing loss chil­dren) were age-ap­pro­pri­ate (in lan­guage skills) by school.

“That’s a com­plete re­ver­sal of what was pos­si­ble be­fore cochlear im­plants.”

As 92% of chil­dren with per­ma­nent hear­ing loss are born to hear­ing par­ents, “telling par­ents when ba­bies are di­ag­nosed that ev­ery­thing will be OK” re­mained a ca­reer high­light for Dr Dor­nan.

The next were the mo­ments when chil­dren heard for the first time with a cochlear im­plant and when those chil­dren came back about age 16 to tell her how grate­ful they were to speak.

She also de­vel­oped the world’s first tele­health model for Au­di­tory-Ver­bal Ther­apy, and last De­cem­ber chaired the world’s first Hu­man Bion­ics In­ter­face Fron­tiers meet­ing.

“Aus­tralia de­vel­oped the cochlear im­plant; Aus­tralia is lead­ing the world in the area of bion­ics,” Dr Dor­nan said.

“The tech­niques are part biological and part en­gi­neer­ing – it’s an amaz­ing time in his­tory to be stand­ing.”

While the next ad­vances for hear­ing loss may come from neuro-pharmacy, stem cell treat­ment or ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, she said it was im­por­tant progress be “slow, with eth­i­cal cau­tion”.

Dr Dor­nan will give her Aus­tralia Day ad­dress at the Mt Perry Sport and Recre­ation Cen­tre, Heusman St, from 10am as part of the Aus­tralia Day awards pre­sen­ta­tion.


POS­I­TIVE RE­SULTS: Dim­ity Dor­nan, the founder of the Hear and Say Cen­tres that support about 65% of Queens­land young chil­dren di­ag­nosed with hear­ing loss, will visit Mt Perry as Aus­tralia Day Am­bas­sador.

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