Dreaming Those Big Dreams
Nine year old Ewan has had more than his share of adversity through life but he has big dreams to build on his love of coding and animations to become an illustrator or video game designer. Deaf Children Australia’s role is to encourage children like Ewan to dream big – and support them to achieve those dreams.
Ewan was born with a bilateral moderate to severe hearing loss that was diagnosed through the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program. He was fitted with hearing aids as a baby, and he and his family were connected up with Early Intervention services when Ewan was only a few months of age.
Like 90 per cent of deaf and hard of hearing children, Ewan was born to hearing parents. Yet unlike most families, Russell and Irene already had a good understanding of hearing loss. Russell’s dad and aunty were deaf, and Irene’s sister also has a hearing loss.
Russell shared their family’s experiences with us: “Ewan may progressively lose more hearing” “Ewan’s hearing loss is likely caused by a genetic disorder. We have been told Ewan may progressively lose more hearing, and the risks are higher if he hits his head or even flies in a plane. As the parents of any active child can understand, it’s hard to stop him playing contact sports and we are worried that the risks are always there – even in the playground. We want to equip Ewan to be able to cope with less hearing if it becomes a reality one day. For example, Ewan is a great chatterbox but we’re also encouraging him to learn Auslan.
We tried to equip Ewan to make the best possible start at school. We chose a school with a deaf facility so they would already have the expertise and technology in place to support Ewan’s learning. Then just before he started Prep, Ewan was limping regularly and in pain, and we discovered he had a problem with blood supply to his hip. The bone was dying and he needed an operation to save the hip.
Ewan couldn’t bear weight on his leg for a long time so he came into Prep not knowing anyone, experiencing additional challenges because of his hearing – and in a wheelchair for all of Prep and Grade One. Ewan had an aide to push him around at recess and lunch – but it’s harder to join in the games and connect with the other kids when you’re in a wheelchair. He had to be really resilient.
After two years in the wheelchair, Ewan could barely walk. One leg was still a little shorter than the other and he had to do exercises with a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist to learn to walk and run again. When he could run again, Ewan joined Deaf Children Australia’s ACE Tennis Club to help him become more active and make new friends who are deaf. There are only a couple of deaf children in each grade at his school and we want him to meet others. We feel it’s really important that Ewan understands he is part of that community and lots of other kids are going through the same challenges as he is with his hearing.
Ewan can find it hard to make new friends but he does have a couple of close friends now and one of them goes to the monthly tennis clinics with him.”
Becoming more confident through “super cool activities” “Ewan has been attending DCA’s school holiday activities like indoor rock climbing and tree climbing, and we have been on the last two family camps. It’s important that parents try to maintain the connections we’ve formed on camp because other parents are a great source of knowledge. For Ewan, it’s always a good experience meeting other deaf kids, learning more Auslan and being part of Deaf culture.”
Ewan added, “I made lots of new friends on camp. Thanks to DCA for running the fun camps and having super cool activities like the giant swing.”
Now, Russell and Irene are thrilled that Ewan can meet up with DCA youth support worker Sarah who is deaf herself and able to mentor Ewan and encourage him. Sarah is helping Ewan become more independent and confident through participating in community activities. Ewan told us, “Hanging out with Sarah keeps me entertained. We go to the library and attend a Lego club there. I want to go to a coding club and an arcade together. Sarah is helping me learn more Auslan and go shopping without my parents. I practise bike riding with Sarah because deafness affects my balance too. Now I don’t have as many crashes. Sarah took me to an all abilities netball club where I even got to toss the ball back and forth with the Prime Minister!”