Paying it Forward
Ruth Fitzsimmons is a powerful advocate for her son Christian. She says she and her husband Rhys have Deaf Children Australia to thank for that.
“We are immensely grateful to DCA and its staff”, she says. “They taught us to advocate for our son and we know they will always have our back if we need support in any way to help Christian live his best life.”
Christian has profound hearing loss in one ear and is moderately deaf in the other. Since he had his cochlear implant in late 2017, Ruth says his speech has improved significantly and today he uses both Auslan and Oral communication.
“He certainly had no trouble verbalizing to me when I asked him recently what he wanted to be when he grows up. ‘A pilot!’ was his proud response.”
Christian, who turns seven this month, is blissfully unaware of the challenges his parents have faced since he came into the world. Like every parent of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, Ruth and Rhys have had to navigate their way through many challenges, from learning Auslan and finding the right school, to working their way through the support available for Christian. At every turn in recent years, says Ruth, Deaf Children Australia has been by their side.
“DCA has opened us to an incredibly supportive network, and not only through their services and resources. Their Family Camps, in particular, have helped Christian form friendships with other deaf children and they connected us with other families who have a child with a hearing loss.”
Christian’s younger sisters, Grace and Emily-Rose, also attended the last two DCA Family Camps, and Ruth has no doubt the girls gained much from the experience.
“Grace, who is four, really benefited from interacting with others like her who have a sibling who is deaf. Suddenly, Grace was surrounded by people who had the same family dynamic, and she is now friends with the sister of one of Christian’s friends who is also deaf.”
But it was Christian’s soaring confidence during the Family Camps that really touched Ruth.
“By nature, Christian is a gentle soul and a little shy,” she said. “But at Family Camp, he really comes out of his shell and it is a joy to witness.”
Ruth says she and her husband also gained immense insight during the Family Camps. “The opportunity for parents to connect with other parents gave us really valuable insider knowledge. We have been able to learn from the experiences of all the children who are older than Christian, and we now socialise with some of the families we have met at Camp who live nearby.”
Ruth says she has learned so much from other parents, and she is more than happy to share her wisdom with others, whether that wisdom is about finding the right school for the right child or learning Auslan. “Deaf Children Australia has taught me so much through their resources, and their advocacy,” she explains. “And through the connections I’ve made with other parents at the DCA Family Camp, I have also learned a lot.