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August 25, 2003

Deaf pupils miss out

From: Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia - Aug 25, 2003

By PAULA BEAUCHAMP, social trends reporter

TEN deaf children a year will miss out on intensive preschool training after the State Government refused to fund a language program.

Hilary Russell, CEO of Taralye -- the language centre being forced to close the program -- said deaf children were being set up to fail.

"The Government is abandoning some of the children who need them most," she said.

Last month Taralye asked the Government for $70,000 to fund its transition program for deaf children with cochlear implants.

The program helps deaf children with immature language skills catch up to their peers.

Set up in 1997, it will lose private funding at the end of the year.

Ms Russell said the closure of the program would leave more children failing academically and more children isolated in the playground.

"This program actually saves the Government money in intensive language support services in later school years," she said.

"Victoria leads the world in cochlear implants, but Taralye is the only centre that teaches these kids to listen and speak."

Frank and Rhonda Burke, of Wantirna, have watched daughter Samantha's language skills soar this year at Taralye.

"At the start Samantha, 5, had the language skills of a three-year-old," Mr Burke said.

"In six months she's at the level of most kids her age. "It is hard to believe it was possible."

But mother of two, Sylvia Dhankhar, fears the worst for daughter Tamara, 4.

Ms Dhankhar said the closure of the program "worried and defeated" her.

"I am worried how this will affect Tamara's self-esteem or how she will do tasks," she said.

A letter from Premier Steve Bracks' office on Friday said the Government would not fund the school transition program as services were already offered to children at school.

© Herald and Weekly Times