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Excellent language skills ensure readiness for school - Henry Optican

Henry Optican’s language skills have put him in a fabulous position to get the most out of school.

The five-year-old has a moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears and started at Mt Eden Normal Primary School on August 1.

He has cochlear implants in both ears and came to The Hearing House to learn to listen and speak.

Audiologists and auditory-verbal therapists at The Hearing House teach deaf and hearing impaired children with cochlear implants and hearing aids to listen and speak.

Wherever possible, we aim to see these children attending mainstream school when they turn 5 with the same speaking and hearing levels as their hearing peers.

Henry’s parents Scott Optican and Claire Campbell say their son’s progress since his first cochlear implant was switched on in February 2014, when he was a year-and-a-half-old, has been “fantastic”.

“With the support of The Hearing House and Henry’s caregivers, his receptive and expressive language is well beyond his chronological age,” Scott says. “And along with increased language ability, has come really strong cognitive ability.”

Henry, known at The Hearing House for his inquisitive nature, loves to learn and has a knack for seeking more information and asking questions to get a better understanding of something.

His auditory-verbal therapist says Henry’s speech and language abilities are well above the expected age range across all areas of language.

As a youngster Henry attended Joyce Fisher Preschool – The Hearing House preschool in Greenlane, Auckland that caters for hearing impaired, and hearing children.

Preschool manager Juliette Pertab says Henry was an eager pupil.

“He is very creative. His language is really good when he is talking about his paintings. He uses very descriptive language – it’s very poetic,” she says.

“His story telling has brilliant ideas because he has great vocabulary.”

Juliette says Henry took the role of village chief in the preschool’s 2017 production very seriously, and is known to perform a very enthusiastic haka.

“He is very confident talking to adults, and he likes to take a leadership role.”

She says at preschool he took responsibility for his own learning and loved science, volcanoes and trains.

Juliette says Henry’s confidence, language skills and creativity put him in a good position to make the most of school.

Scott and Claire say they are “delighted that his deafness has not held back his entry to school”.

“We are absolutely confident that – both in terms of language and cognitively – Henry is well capable of dealing with a mainstream school just like any other 5-year-old in New Zealand.”

However, Scott and Claire say before Henry started school they were “somewhat concerned” about how his deafness might impact him at school.

“It still might to some degree – we don’t know for sure. However, there are lots of things that impact kids learning at school,” Scott says.

“We have no reason to think that Henry’s deafness will pose any particular problem. But if we find that it is causing him some difficulty, we will take steps to deal with it – just like any parent would when something makes it harder for the child to learn or adapt to a school environment.”

It’s only been a month, but Scott says Henry made the transition from preschool to school “just fine”.

“In fact, he has started to teach us lessons he is learning at school at home — and he insists that we participate in his ‘class’!”

Scott and Claire say the staff at Henry’s school have been great. They met with the deputy principal and Henry’s teachers to review potential issues, brief them on how cochlear implants work, and show them how to use the wireless device which Henry’s teacher wears around her neck to ensure her voice is projected at a constant volume into Henry’s cochlear implants.

Henry is clearly enjoying all the new learning experiences. He says his favourite thing about school is when it is time to do maths.

And since he’s been at school he’s learnt “how to write stories about me and how to write my name so they know it’s mine”.

Scott and Claire say they are immensely grateful for the support provided by The Hearing House and all of its staff.

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