Student with hearing loss achieves in HSC

Fergus with his parentsFergus with his parents

Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) has awarded a medal of excellence to a student with hearing loss for their academic achievement in the higher school certificate (HSC).

Nineteen year old Fergus, attended Newington College. He received support from RIDBC School Support Service, which brings RIDBC support teachers into schools to provide students who have vision or hearing loss with the in-class assistance and strategies they need to access the curriculum.

“I was diagnosed with hearing loss when I was in kindergarten. It changed everything,” said Fergus. “Suddenly I was wearing these weird hearing aid things that everyone could see! There was the whole social experience to overcome. Luckily I had a good group of friends that helped me through, and they are still my friends today.

“I have a mild to moderate hearing loss. So I can hear, but when I am not using my hearing aids it’s a bit like when you are not wearing your glasses and you are trying to read a book.”

Moving to high school meant a new set of challenges.

“As I reached year seven the technology changed – so my bulky hearing aids were replaced by tiny ones,” said Fergus. “At that time the social stuff became less of a concern and it was more about me figuring out how to best facilitate my learning.

“I received support from RIDBC throughout high school. My RIDBC School Support Teacher was my main point of contact at school – helping the school staff know the best ways to support me in the classroom. I also had regular tests to make sure my speech was where it should be.

“With RIDBC’s support I learnt strategies such as sitting up the front in class so I could hear, asking more questions, or getting extra study materials to make up for the fact that I would miss a lot during lessons as I found it harder to hear and harder to process.”

Fergus received an Australian tertiary rank (ATAR) of 84 and is now in his first year of a University of Technology Sydney Bachelor of Business and Bio Technology degree.

“I found the HSC year very long and stressful – I think any student who has come through it can attest to the fact that it is a year of extreme highs and lows,” said Fergus. “It was also the most the rewarding year in my life.

“The support from RIDBC became less about ‘hearing support’ and more about tools for learning. How to be effective in my approach – like adding subtitles to videos I was studying.

“My advice to other students with hearing loss completing their studies is to make sure that you take those moments of relaxation. You can really burn out and get tired so quickly. Make sure that you have allocated things to look forward to, like going out with friends.”

Fergus is now looking forward to the next chapter.

“Now that I am at university I am not sure what is next,” said Fergus. “Traveling is definitely a big focus. I am off to Europe next year. I am also currently working as a bridge climb instructor. I love meeting new people – it’s fantastic fun!”

RIDBC is a charity and Australia’s largest non-government provider of therapy, education and cochlear implant services for people with vision or hearing loss, supporting thousands of adults, children and their families, each year.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in people's lives.