A degree that differentiates

Carrie-Ann Ashenden receiving degree from RIDBC's Jill DuncanCarrie-Ann Ashenden, who was born profoundly deaf and is bi-lingual, received the Master of Special Education specialising in sensory disability

Sixty postgraduate students have recently completed a program offered by the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children‘s Renwick Centre that gives them a unique qualification in special education for children who are deaf or blind.

The graduates will help to alleviate a critical shortage of trained teachers of the deaf or blind and associated professionals who teach and support children with sensory disability.

“RIDBC Renwick Centre, affiliated with the University of Newcastle, is now the only centre in Australia which offers postgraduate courses in special education for teachers, and associated professionals, working with both children who are deaf and children who are blind or have impaired vision,” said Professor Greg Leigh, Director of RIDBC Renwick Centre.

With skilled special education and early intervention children with impaired hearing or vision can access the same opportunities as all Australian children and reach their full potential.

“These children get the best possible start to life when they, and their families, receive immediate support and assistance from appropriately trained teachers and associated professionals,” said Professor Leigh.

“This dedicated professional education and research centre has effectively reversed a trend of diminishing professional specialisation in the field of educating children with a sensory disability.

“Our graduates this year will join an expanding group of highly skilled specialists who are all working to improve the educational opportunities available to children with sensory impairment.”

Carrie-Ann Ashenden, who was born profoundly deaf and is bi-lingual – using both English and Auslan (Australian Sign Language) - received the Master of Special Education specialising in sensory disability.

Carrie-Ann, who works as a teacher of students with disabilities, says that her time at RIDBC Renwick Centre has been powerful.

“My tertiary studies have not always been easy. My first degree was a Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) at the University of Western Sydney and that was scary and overwhelming. There were times when my mother had to drag me to University!

“There were no sign language interpreters or anyone with an understanding of how to sign correct technical terms in Chemistry subjects. My mother had to interpret much of it for me.

“My experience at RIDBC Renwick Centre was so different. The lecturers are wonderful – amongst the best in their field - and the subjects are relevant, interesting and professionally rewarding,” said Carrie-Ann.

“At first I felt like a regular teacher amongst all the others, but this degree changed that. I felt myself evolve, not only as a Deaf teacher but as a Deaf individual.

“During my Masters I was able to work in a wide range of areas of Deaf education, including RIDBC‘s Thomas Pattison School and Student Support Service. The valuable information and experience from this has allowed me to apply important strategies in my own classroom.”

Carrie-Ann‘s hearing impairment came as a surprise to her family, which has no history of deafness.

“I come from a hearing family. It was a shock for my parents to find out that my older brother and I are profoundly Deaf,” said Carrie-Ann.

“At the time my parents had no idea of how to deal with this because there were very few services available to them – unlike today.

“Mum and Dad supported me the whole way through. It was really my teacher in primary school and my mother who have inspired me to become a teacher of the Deaf.”

RIDBC Renwick Centre is the largest provider of postgraduate education programs in the field of the education of children with a sensory disability in Australia and is among the largest and most widely recognised in the field across the world.

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children is Australia‘s largest independent special educator, assisting almost 1000 children with significant hearing and/or vision impairment and their families across Australia. RIDBC provides hearing or vision screening for thousands more each year.

More information about RIDBC teacher training, professional development and research is available at www.ridbc.org.au/renwick