Arnhem Land student visits RIDBC in Sydney

Guti with his RIDBC Teleschool Consultant, Kathy, during his visit to RIDBC in Sydney

Fifteen year old Arnhem Land student, Guthingara, recently visited Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Teleschool in Sydney for an intensive, two week language program.

Families of children who are deaf or blind in regional and remote Australia access RIDBC Teleschool via high-quality videoconferencing technology. Guthingara, or ‘Guti’, began intensively accessing the service from his school five years ago.

“Both Guti’s teacher and teacher’s aide attend all of Guti’s videoconferencing sessions, learning Australian Sign Language (Auslan) alongside him so that they can continue to provide support outside our sessions,” said RIDBC Teleschool Consultant, Kathy MacDonald.

Born profoundly deaf, when Guti started working with Kathy he had limited Auslan skills and was primarily using his community’s signing system to communicate.

“The language of Guti’s community is Yolngu and there is a rich sign language that supports the oral language, however it’s not as widely used as Auslan,” said Kathy.

“Language gives you the communication skills that help you make sense of your world and Guti absolutely loves learning! When I first started working with him I was teaching the signs for different things in the classroom. Most recently, he completed a unit of school work on the USA civil rights movement and we’re having Auslan conversations about Martin Luther King, discrimination and human rights. It’s amazing progress.”

Guti’s two week stay with RIDBC in Sydney gave him access to a high school bilingual program, contact with other Deaf students, and further access to RIDBC’s assessment and educational services.

“Children with hearing loss often feel isolated because they have a hard time making themselves understood. This isolation only increases when a child lives in a remote area where it can be difficult to access services,” said Kathy.

“Guti’s trip to Sydney gave him access to a broad range of educational and clinical services, but of course I also made sure we got to do some of the touristy stuff - we visited the Sydney Aquarium, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and snuck in a game of laser tag!”

RIDBC is Australia’s largest provider of services for children with hearing or vision loss, assisting thousands of children each a year across Australia.  As Australia’s premier provider of training and education for professionals in the field of sensory disability, RIDBC also ensures that services delivered throughout government and non-government organisations remain cutting-edge.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in the lives of children with hearing or vision loss.  In order to maintain its intensive educational and research programs, the organisation needs to raise approximately $2.5 million every month.