When Hasas was a newborn, his parents Nadeesha and Nandi would never have dreamed their little boy would one day have the confidence to star in a segment on TV.
But there he was, back in June, proudly fronting the cameras, with his identical twin brother, Yasas by his side. The impish five-year-old twins, who are inseparable, were featured in a segment on the ABC Kids’ program Giggle and Hoot.
And while Hasas signed to the program’s host, there was Yasas, translating his twin’s Auslan for the young viewers at home.
“And to think”, Nadeesha says, “Nandi and I worried when they were born how the twins would manage to communicate with each other once they grew older!”
Hasas was born with profound hearing loss due to Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD). His twin, Yasas, has full hearing.
Nadeesha and Nandi admit they were initially devastated when their baby was diagnosed with ANSD just before he was discharged from hospital as a newborn.
“It was heartbreaking news,” Nadeesha remembers.
“Nothing had prepared us for this, as there were no problems during the pregnancy.”
“Our biggest fears were for Hasas and what would happen in the future. But we were also terribly worried about the boys together. They were twins: how would they possibly communicate with each other?”
Nadeesha says at the time, she and her husband did not know anyone with deafness, nor did they know anything about the wonderful world of Auslan (Australian Sign Language). “Ours was the fear of the unknown,” she says.
When the twins came into the world, the Sri Lankan-born couple were living in Darwin. Nandi was working for a mining company in the remote NT community of Jabiru and was a Fly-in Fly-out worker.
His long absences were just too difficult for Nadeesha as she juggled the demands of parenting the two little ones on her own. She would soon move to Jabiru to be with her husband for support.
As the couple adjusted to life with the twin babies, they reachedout for support of another kind.
“Through a referral, we connected with Deaf Children Australia’s Darwin branch, and we began to learn Auslan as a family, via video conferencing,” Nadeesha explains.“It opened a new world of opportunities for Hasas!”
Fast forward to today, and the whole family is becoming increasingly proficient at Auslan.
Nadeesha and Nandi are constantly delighted at the close bond between the twins.
“Yasas is very good with Auslan, and he will often help his daddy interpret Hasas as he signs. It is lovely to see!” Nadeesha says.
As the boys neared school age, Nadeesha and Nandi once again turned to Deaf Children Australia for support.
“We had learned that Darwin had no schools with dedicated facilities for deaf children, and we desperately wanted Hasas and Yasas to have access to Auslan during their schooling. We were also keen to move closer to the DCA services in Melbourne, so we made the decision to relocate to Victoria.”
DCA’s Community Development team worked closely with the family to identify ideal schooling options in Melbourne and accompanied them as they toured the schools.
“Having DCA by our side made all the difference,” Nadeesha says. “We would not have known what questions to ask, and DCA made it so easy for us to make an informed decision.”
The family are thriving since they relocated to Melbourne. The boys are attending Eastwood Primary, which has a dedicated deaf facility. “I want Yasas to always be with his brother in an Auslan environment where everyone is learning Auslan together,” Nadeesha said.
Nadeesha and Nandi see Hasas growing in confidence every day. “Hasas just loves school and he has a lot of friends, including hearing friends,” says his proud mum. She also attributes Hasas’ growing confidence to the support of DCA, and particularly, his interactions with other children at our recreation programs and our Family Camp.
“The DCA camp was incredibly helpful for all of us,” Nadeesha says.
“It gave Hasas the opportunity to participate in confidence-building activities such as rock climbing. In turn, it allowed Yasas to meet other children like him who also have a brother or sister with profound hearing loss.”
“And for me and my husband, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn from other parents like us and to spend time with adults who are deaf or hard of hearing. They are a wonderful role model for us, and for our boys.”