Student with hearing loss graduates from RIDBC

Dale with his mum, Kim, at RIDBC Alice Betteridge School graduation ceremony

Smithfield student, Dale Speechley, who has hearing loss as well as cerebral palsy, has graduated from Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Alice Betteridge School.

RIDBC Alice Betteridge School caters for students who have a significant sensory impairment as well as a level of intellectual impairment.

“Dale was premature, born at 28 weeks,” said Dale’s mother, Kim. “He was in hospital for three months and underwent a series of tests, but everything was inconclusive. When we finally took him home we were warned there might be complications, but we didn’t know what they would be.

“At six months of age Dale had a fit at home and we took him back to the hospital. That’s when we found out he had cerebral palsy and was profoundly deaf. It was such a shock.”

Dale began receiving support from RIDBC when he was three and a half years old.

“We enrolled him in RIDBC Alice Betteridge School and honestly, it’s just been the best thing,” said Kim. “They helped us with everything from physical disability support, to furniture modifications, to support for Dale’s hearing loss.

“Dale just wouldn't be where he is today without RIDBC. They gave him every opportunity to learn and try new things. He’s come along in leaps and bounds. RIDBC really pushes kids to achieve their full potential. They let Dale grow into his own person – and the support wasn’t just for my son, but also for me.

“I can’t say I’m not nervous about the future because of how amazing the support has been at RIDBC, but his teachers and therapists have been incredible in preparing our whole family for this transition. The help RIDBC have given us isn’t just for school, it’s for a lifetime.”

RIDBC Alice Betteridge School provides an environment in which students receive a tailored education program to optimise their participation and learning. Most RIDBC Alice Betteridge school students will go on to a community participation program after graduating.

“All of our students have a significant sensory impairment and a level of intellectual impairment. Many also have physical disabilities and with all those complex needs open employment and university is often not an option,” said RIDBC Alice Betteridge School Curriculum Co-ordinator, Jessteene Clifford.

“With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), post school options are becoming more and more individualised. Instead of students going on to a centre-based program, many are looking towards work in the community, and we support parents and carers to navigate that process.”

Throughout his time at RIDBC, Dale has learned key practical as well as academic skills.

“With all our students we give them as many experiences as possible to help them grow in confidence and ability,” said Jessteene. “Throughout their schooling we provide students with as many ‘mainstream’ activities as possible – such as school open days, graduation dinners and participation in a school choir.

“Dale has an ambition to work, and so we have been liaising with his post-school placement about the opportunities available to him. He has a new power wheelchair which is super snazzy and he drives it like a teenager would want to drive a Porsche, so we were thinking pamphlet deliveries might be a good fit!

“Dale loves to talk to people – he's a real communicator. He loves being part of the action and being involved. He's quick and outgoing and we’re confident he’s ready for the next chapter!”

RIDBC is a charity and Australia’s largest non-government provider of therapy, education and cochlear implant services for people with hearing or vision 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.