Fight for fund­ing

Chil­dren strug­gling with au­di­tory pro­cess­ing dis­or­der can not ac­cess fund­ing for cru­cial hear­ing equip­ment un­less they are fail­ing at school. Reporter Danielle Street finds out why ex­perts say the sys­tem is let­ting th­ese kids down.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

SHAUN Woods starts in­ter­me­di­ate school this year. It won’t be easy. He will have trou­ble lis­ten­ing to the teacher and fol­low­ing in­struc­tions.

The 11-year-old lives with au­di­tory pro­cess­ing dis­or­der (APD), a hear­ing im­pair­ment that af­fects an es­ti­mated one in 20 chil­dren.

Peo­ple with the dis­or­der have nor­mal hear­ing but the sounds are jum­bled by the brain.

Shaun was di­ag­nosed with a ge­net­i­cally in­her­ited sen­sory deaf­ness in year 2 but even af­ter he re­ceived hear­ing aids his par­ents found he was still strug­gling.

‘‘What was hap­pen­ing in the class­room, or even at home, is that we would say a lot of things and he just wouldn’t do them,’’ his mother Sue says.

‘‘We were frus­trated be­cause we thought he wasn’t fol­low­ing in­struc­tions, but he ac­tu­ally wasn’t able to process.

‘‘It was too much in­for­ma­tion at once.’’

To help rem­edy the prob­lem Shaun’s hear­ing aids can be fit­ted with an FM re­ceiver that picks up sound from a mi­cro­phone worn around the teacher’s neck.

But the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion will not fund the tech­nol­ogy he needs.

Shaun is meet­ing the Na­tional Stan­dards in the class­room so he does not meet the cri­te­ria for help.

‘‘We had to take him out of school to get him the tu­ition to keep him at that stan­dard,’’ Mrs Woods says.

The fam­ily is look­ing at pay­ing more than $7000 to have Shaun fit­ted with the equip­ment he needs to keep up in the class­room.

Even if the min­istry does fund a stu­dent with au­di­tory pro­cess­ing dis­or­der the tech­nol­ogy can only be used dur­ing school hours.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Par­nell- based Na­tional Foun­da­tion for the Deaf Louise Car­roll says the cri­te­ria are let­ting vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren down.

‘‘We want to see the Min­istry of Health pick up for th­ese kids. It shouldn’t sit with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion at all.

‘‘This is a clin­i­cal is­sue and it should be based on clin­i­cal need, not ed­u­ca­tional fail­ure.’’

Au­di­ol­o­gist Bill Keith says it is an ‘‘anom­aly’’ the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion is in­volved with pro­vid­ing a med­i­cal treat­ment.

Dr Keith is the di­rec­tor of SoundSkills clinic in Green­lane and spe­cialises in APD.

‘‘It is a gross in­equity that chil­dren with other types of deaf­ness re­ceive hear­ing aids to help them hear, or cochlear im­plants, but the ma­jor­ity of chil­dren with APD do not.’’

He has seen cases where chil­dren have been home­schooled or given ex­tra tu­ition be­cause they are so over­whelmed by the noise in the class­room.

‘‘Aware­ness of APD is im­prov­ing as peo­ple come to re­alise that it may be the un­der­ly­ing cause of a child’s learn­ing dis­abil­ity.

‘‘Many cases would have been la­belled dys­lexia,’’ he says.

Last year the min­istries of health and ed­u­ca­tion joined to com­mis­sion a re­search group to in­de­pen­dently re­search au­di­tory pro­cess­ing dis­or­der.

Rawiri Brell from the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion says the re­view will iden­tify best prac­tice and make rec­om­men­da­tions for the pro­vi­sion of hear­ing de­vices.

‘‘The feed­back on the re­view was much greater than an­tic­i­pated and re­sulted in a longer time­frame for the re­port,’’ Mr Brell says.

The re­port is ex­pected in late Fe­bru­ary and will be pub­lished af­ter ap­proval.

It will be used as a ba­sis to de­velop next steps for both agen­cies, Mr Brell says.


No help:

Shaun Woods, 11, has trou­ble in class but can’t ac­cess fund­ing for the vi­tal tech­nol­ogy he needs to hear.

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