'Big school' a bigger step for Murphy
Bianca Brownlow from Watson helps her son Murphy Elkins 5 prepare for his first day at Kindergarten at Blue Gum Community School. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
With schoolbooks to cover, lunchboxes to pack and uniforms to iron, the weekend before term one starts is sometimes more stressful for the parents than the students.
For the parents of a child who is deaf or hearing impaired, the anxiousness might be expected to be more intense. But this is not the case for Bianca Brownlow and her five-year-old son Murphy.
Murphy is a sociable, talkative boy who loves singing and dancing to songs from the Muppets and playing with his friends.
At first, it is hard to recognise he has profound hearing loss in his left ear, which is so severe that a hearing aid cannot help him.
Thanks to an ACT and NSW-based charity that helps hearing-impaired children to develop spoken-language skills, Murphy will be entering the mainstream schooling system on Monday.
''Everyone says, 'Oh, we don't notice he's got a hearing loss, because he's quite verbal and has a great vocabulary','' Ms Brownlow said. But she said this is a result of the therapy offered through the Shepherd Centre and its early-intervention programs.
Visiting the centre once a month, Murphy went through auditory-verbal therapy. He was taught the importance of listening skills and how to pay attention.
Murphy knows to seek clarification if he has not understood a direction - a great skill for the classroom.
''The biggest thing to come out of it for us was that Murphy knows how to advocate on behalf of his own hearing. He knows how to manage it himself,'' Ms Brownlow said.
If Murphy had not undergone therapy, he might not have had the skills to tune in to what he needed to in a noisy environment.
The chief executive of the Shepherd Centre, Jim Hungerford, said he is proud of Murphy and all of the centre's graduates for starting ''big school''. ''We think it's a wonderful affirmation of all the hard work of the kids, the parents and the therapists that these kids can enter mainstream schooling,'' he said. ''They could have an incredibly tough time at school, so to learn to speak like any other 'normally hearing' child means that they're getting all those opportunities that every child gets.''
As for Murphy, he is simply looking forward to starting at Blue Gum Community School. ''I'm excited for school. I will learn to write. I'll learn to do maths, and learn to read.''
New students start at ACT government schools on Monday.
Continuing students will return to school on Tuesday.