IM this article to a friend!

February 28, 2003

Thieves ruin school for Ben

From: Port Macquarie News, Australia - 28 Feb 2003

YEAR one student Ben Collins is a keen student.

Not much holds him back, despite having had a severe to profound hearing disability since birth, when he and his brother Sam were born three months premature. Not much slowed him down until now, that is.

On Tuesday night someone broke into his classroom at Hastings Public School and stole one part of a communication system that allows Ben to hear the teacher and participate in classroom activities.

The device, called a frequency modulator (FM), allows Ben and his teacher to have a direct communication link.

His mother Jenna is disappointed that someone would take the device that helps her son interact with the world.

It is of no use to anyone else.

"Being severely to profoundly deaf since birth, he had fought extraordinary odds to be even able to attend mainstream school," Mrs Collins said.

"This is possible due to the dedication of his teaching staff and the device known as an FM.

"Without this system Ben misses out on what occurs in the classroom environment and is left to his unhearing world.

"When Ben had been told his classroom had been broken into he cried. When he was told his FM was missing he was devastated."

But Ben is trying hard, despite the hurdle.

"I can still hear the teacher because he's yelling," Ben said yesterday.

Mrs Collins said the device looks like a portable radio or CD player.

She believes whoever took it might have thought it was the latest gadget or toy confiscated by the teacher.

"Not being of use to anyone but Ben, the device will probably be discarded as useless, but I assure you that nothing is further from the truth," she said.

"Until the device is located or a replacement found, Ben will lose all that vital communication."

A spokesperson for Hearing Australia estimates the device would cost $1000 to replace.

The organisation is trying to organise a replacement in the meantime.

School principal Grant Heaton said entry was gained by breaking a glass door panel.

The offender or offenders rummaged through teachers' draws and stole only $32 and Ben's device.

Anyone with information about the theft can contact the Port Macquarie police station or Hastings Public school.

© Copyright 2000 by Rural Press Ltd and its subsidiaries and affiliates.