Top End Children Shine at Inaugural Camp

04/09/19
The RIDBC Top End Camp was made possible by the generous and continued support from Hyundai Help for Kids. The RIDBC Top End Camp was made possible by the generous and continued support from Hyundai Help for Kids.

In mid-August, school-aged children from across the Northern Territory, who are deaf or hard of hearing, came together in Darwin for a unique Top End camp experience, the first-ever hosted in the region.

The two-day event blended educational experiences with a range of fun and social activities, providing opportunities for the children to practice their communication and social skills, and build relationships. The camp was attended by children who use spoken language and/or Auslan to communicate.

Healthy Harold visit Healthy Harold meet the children

Liz Fisher, RIDBC Teacher of the Deaf in Darwin, says "It was a great opportunity to bring the children together to build friendships, communicate and play. We had an Auslan interpreter on-site for the two days and used a range of assistive technologies for those with listening devices, be that hearing aids or cochlear implants".

"The youngest child was five and the oldest thirteen, so there was quite an age range, but we structured it so that it worked for everyone. We saw the oldest child step up into an informal mentoring role, which was fantastic for him and the group", Liz continues.

The camp opened with a visit to the Territory Wildlife Park, where the children witnessed a spectacular bird show and participated in an exclusive reptile experience. In the evening, a pizza dinner and sleepover gave families and children a sometimes-rare opportunity to connect with others who have similar experiences.

Wildlife park photo 1 Wildlife park photo 2

"The families quickly began to develop friendships by sharing stories, recommendations and problem-solving for those everyday things; for example, which bike helmet is best for a child with cochlear implants", explains Liz.

On day two, after a visit from Healthy Harold, the children were thrilled to take part in AFL and soccer clinics, run by Deaf Sports Australia. "The children had such a great time playing in teams and building connections with each other” enthuses Liz. The coach, who is hard of hearing, engaged the participants and gave instructions using a blend of assistive technologies, visual cues and Auslan. “It was just really fun," she says.

Deaf Sports Australia visit photo 1 Deaf Sports Australia visit photo 2Deaf Sports Australia visit photo 3

And although on the surface it appeared entirely of 'fun and games', the camp plays an important role to support language development, helping the children progress toward their individual goals.

Liz agrees, "The social aspect is fantastic, and it was great to see the kids playing together but it's also about developing language, communication and learning."

The learning extends to the parents and caregivers too, who are invited to take part in a range of workshops designed to provide strategies to support their child's education and well-being. The following workshops were facilitated:

  • Assistive technologies by RIDBC Audiologist Kerry Bell and Speech Pathologist Jackie Stirling, in conjunction with Hearing Australia
  • Social and emotional development by RIDBC Psychologist Paul Kallaras
  • The importance of advocacy, that is, providing parents with practical tools to support their child's education by Liz and RIDBC Speech Pathologist Christina Talbot

"Every child at the camp attends a mainstream school, and potentially their current and future teachers may not have direct experience with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, so it is important that parents and caregivers can explain and advocate for their child’s needs," Liz explains.

"By giving parents the language and practical tools to talk about their child and their educational needs, we hope to give them the confidence to speak up, ensuring their child has fair and equal access to the school curriculum."

 

According to Liz, the camp changes the way both parents and children view the therapy experience. "After a social event like this one, we definitely have a different level of rapport with their families and the children. We've built a social connection and it changes how they see us, deepening the relationship, and enabling us to work even more closely with the family to achieve the best outcomes for their child."

The RIDBC Top End Camp was made possible by the generous and continued support from Hyundai Help for Kids. Without such support this opportunity would not be possible for the RIDBC families. We offer our thanks and appreciation.

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