Playgroup helps children build confidence

Terry Meskin and Keira BarryKeira Barry, with RIDBC Speech Pathologist, Terry Meskin, at RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre.

A playgroup at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s (RIDBC) Matilda Rose Centre, Waverley, is helping four young girls with hearing loss and additional special needs learn language and build confidence interacting with their peers.
Launched in February and held weekly, RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre staff matched the girls in the playgroup according to their ages, abilities and interests. In the small group they can build the relationships they need to develop the language and social skills necessary to prepare for mainstream school.

The playgroup will continue over the course of the girls’ enrolment at the Centre, adopting a new theme each term around their interests. The launch theme was ‘babies’, helping to build language, communication and social skills around activities such as dressing and bathing a baby.
Killara girl, Keira Barry, has been attending the playgroup since February. She has a profound hearing loss in both ears and is learning to listen and speak with the help of two cochlear implants. Keira also has cerebral palsy, caused by the cytomegalovirus (CMV).
“Due to Keira’s low muscle tone in her torso, she struggles to get the air flow she needs for speech,” said RIDBC Speech Pathologist, Terry Meskin. “However, her response to her peers is incredible - the excitement of talking about her interests with girls her own age really propels her to increase her volume and articulation.

“The playgroup has been a fantastic setting to promote language acquisition as well as the social skills Keira will need in a mainstream school: learning to wait your turn, learning to listen and also learning how to speak up in a busy environment. These skills can really help make a child successful at school.”

The playgroup also presents an opportunity for the parents of the girls to learn new skills and to meet other parents who can support each other.

“I’ve really noticed the playgroup helping Keira’s memory and language continuity – she’ll come home after the group and talk about what happened, and that repetition is helping her to learn,” said Keira’s mother, Alexandra.

“It’s also been fantastic for me as a parent. When Keira is in the group, we mums sit down and share a cup of tea. It’s great to be able to talk to people who share so much in common with me in terms of bringing up children with hearing loss and additional special needs. It’s nice to get an opportunity to talk about strategies - particularly involving our other children.”

RIDBC Matilda Rose Centre ensures families of children with significant hearing loss, as well as those who have additional disabilities, receive the early specialised care that is so critical to their child’s development.

The Centre provides service to families looking to access the expert care and support that will allow their child to develop relationships, communication and language. Families can access Special Education Teaching by trained teachers of the deaf along with Speech Pathology, Audiology, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy providing continuity of care for their child.

RIDBC provides vital support to over 1000 children with significant hearing and/or vision loss and their families across Australia. As well, RIDBC provides vision and hearing screening to around 2000 babies and children each year.

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