COVID-19 may cause children with hearing loss to miss out on support, org says
As many as 1 in 2 Australian children with hearing loss may be missing out on critical early intervention services since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Shepherd Centre.
The not-for-profit organisation, which helps children with hearing loss develop speech and language skills is concerned that this may lead to prolonged developmental delays in these children, who rely on early intervention services to support their social intelligence, mental wellness and literacy.
The Shepherd Centre is calling on the support of Australians to help bridge this growing and potentially devastating gap on the charity’s annual Giving Day on 26-27 August 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the not-for-profit sector, with a 20% decline in regular donations. The Shepherd Centre says that the reduction in charitable giving means that even more families of children with hearing loss are at risk of not having access to its services, despite the ongoing need for early intervention support.
The Shepherd Centre’s “Confident Kids” program helps children with hearing loss to develop children’s empathy and awareness that other people have different desires, beliefs and knowledge, and improve their understanding of abstract concepts like thinking, knowing, predicting and pretending.
Moreover, the program teaches teamwork and group problem-solving skills, interpretation of subtle social and language cues, and developing their listening and conversation skills
The theme of the 2021 Giving Day is “Hear Together” and calls upon the power of community to ensure no Australian child with hearing loss is left behind. The initiative aims to raise $180,000 to support around 75 children to be a part of its “Confident Kids” program.
While it costs approximately $14,000 per year per child to provide these essential services, only 30 per cent of this is government funded. This means that The Shepherd Centre is highly reliant on donations to help more families access its early intervention services.
“Confident Kids” is a unique, world-leading program which provides children with hearing loss with the social skills they need to thrive at school and in life.
The eight-week program is designed for children aged 4-5 to actively teach them spoken language and self-advocacy skills that will help them to flourish at mainstream school and in the community.
Dr Jim Hungerford, CEO of The Shepherd Centre, says reduced funding has a direct impact on the accessibility of critical development programs, like “Confident Kids” and early intervention that help children with hearing loss reach their full potential.
“The possibility of social exclusion can create additional stress for the families of children with hearing loss. Access to programs like ‘Confident Kids’, ensures these children gain an understanding of the social cues that underpin everyday interactions,” said Dr Hungerford.
The success of the 2020 Giving Day highlighted that making sure children with hearing loss have a bright future is important to Australians.
“Last year donations have changed the lives of the many Australian families who require our support. We are calling on that same Australian generosity and spirit to continue to help children with hearing loss in 2021. We want people to know that every donation makes an impact and with your support anything is possible,” said Dr Hungerford.
All of the donated funds will go towards providing vital specialist support including access to therapists, course materials and practice of social skills in real-life settings, with the value of those services ranging from $200 to $10,000.