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April 4, 2007

Alison's amazing feat

From: Auckland, New Zealand - Apr 4, 2007

By LISA SLOAN - Central Leader

Little battler Alison Winstanley may be profoundly deaf, but she can still listen and speak better than most children her age.

After three years of weekly lessons the five-year-old has graduated from Greenlane's Hearing House with the listening and speaking skills of a seven-year-old.

"It was just a fantastically proud moment," says her mum Di Winstanley.

"We are celebrating the work of a lot of people."

Alison was diagnosed at 14 months of age and began lessons at the Hearing House soon after.

With the help of two cochlear implants, she was taught to listen and speak, and started at St Cuthbert's school just before her fifth birthday.

"It's quite extraordinary what has been achieved," Mrs Winstanley says.

"Thanks to the expertise and guidance of the Hearing House she is now just like any other hearing child."

The Hearing House is a non-profit organisation supported by the Lion Foundation and other private individuals and trusts.

Using auditory-verbal therapy, they can teach deaf and hearing-impaired children up to the age of four to listen and speak.

The programme is play-based and teaches children basic sounds, language, grammar and intonation.

"Auditory-verbal therapy basically accelerates the natural way a child would learn language," general manager Scott Johnston says.

"It allows them to catch up on the years they lost."

Mr Johnston says 90 percent of children who are deaf or have hearing loss learn to hear and speak if they have no other disabilities.

For auditory-verbal therapy to work, family members must be involved in teaching at home.

Mrs Winstanley gave up work to be at home with Alison while she was at the Hearing House.

"It's a lifestyle you have to adopt," she says.

She says Alison is thriving at school.

"She's just blossomed, she's one of the crowd now."

Alison says she loves school, especially music, physical education and art.

"My whole school is really nice and I enjoy going to do things that are special," she says.

And she says she enjoyed her time at the Hearing House.

"It was nice to be there," she says. "It's fun to be deaf."

Alison was among 13 children to graduate from the Hearing House on March 21.

For more information, phone: 579-2333 or visit

© 2007 Auckland