The first thing you notice about 5-year-old Mae Le is her larger than life smile.
Secondly it is her excitement for starting “big school” next year.
A distant third are her hearing aids.
“Most people don’t know she has a hearing problem till they see the hearing aid,” mum Nga said.
“Mae’s language and speech are on par with any other normal hearing child.”
It has not been an easy journey.
At two-days-old she failed the compulsory hearing test for newborns. She failed the same test a few days later.
At six-weeks old she had a comprehensive hearing test and was diagnosed mild bilateral sensorineural hearing loss.
“To see my baby with attachments all over was very scary,” Nga said.
“We were first time parents and we weren’t sure what was happening. There is no history of deafness in the family so it came as a big shock. I was filled with so much fear, anxiety and confusion.” The Fairfield family chose to fit Mae with hearing aids and start early intervention to develop her language. They could have waited to see if she had any difficulty at school and deal with it then.
But they decided to act fast. They decided to visit The Shepherd Centre.
“From the beginning they have been absolutely amazing. Mae had therapy fortnightly to help her speak by listening. She misses out on the soft sounds – the ‘s’ and ‘f’ – so fun in the sun becomes ‘un in the un’. As an adult you can fill in the blanks but as a child you don’t have that language base,” said Nga, who donates 10 per cent of profits from her custom-made quilts to The Shepherd Centre.
“The Shepherd Centre has supported and reassured our family every step of the way. Mae is flourishing and next year she is going to kindergarten and our hope is she can not only speak English but also Vietnamese which is where my husband and I were both born.” Unfortunately, 50 per cent of children with hearing loss are missing out on receiving support services.
It’s the reason behind Loud Shirt Day on October 20.
The annual fundraiser supporting The Shepherd Centre encourages Australians everywhere to trade their business attire for more flamboyant items to help raise crucial funds and awareness for deaf and hearing impaired children.
The Shepherd Centre chief executive Jim Hungerford said for every child they are able to help like Mae, there’s another deaf child who’s missing out on the support they need.
“Hosting a Loud Shirt Day event is an enjoyable and simple way to help raise funds to ensure families of all deaf children can access the services they need. Over half of the funding for the over 500 families who turn to us each year comes from generous donations by the public. The community can really make a difference,” he said.
- Details: loudshirtday.com.au.