A NEW study has shown that children with significant hearing impairments can thrive socially if they receive early intervention therapy.
A five-year research program, Sound Connection, studied the impact of spoken language skills on social inclusion for children with a hearing loss.
The results revealed that deaf children who received early intervention listening and spoken language assistance demonstrated both improved spoken language skills and social inclusion skills on a par with their hearing peers.
Six-year-old Albion Park boy Jack Debnam-Koning was born with bi-lateral hearing loss and after graduating from the Shepherd Centre in 2013 he has begun his first year at Mount Terry Primary School with his twin sister Grace.
Jack's mother, Meredith Koning, said the family couldn't have done it without the help of the Shepherd Centre.
"I didn't know the first thing about having a deaf child and the centre let us ask all the questions we needed to and they answered all of them for us," Ms Koning said.
"You could sit behind Jack and beat a drum and he wouldn't have known but through the weekly therapy program at the Shepherd Centre he started his first year in a mainstream school.
"As a parent you don't want your child to miss out on anything, or be left behind and from when we first found out Jack had a hearing problem the centre gave us that reassurance and worked with us.
"He doesn't have to go to a special school and in essence he is just like every other kid.
"If Jack hadn't progressed how he has, the whole family would be completely different and we just can't express how grateful we are to the Shepard Centre for that."
The early intervention centre in Wollongong offers various listening and speaking therapies for deaf children.
The centre's director of clinical programs Aleisha Davis said the research outcomes were the first evidence that deaf children were able to integrate well into the hearing community.
"Our early intervention programs use hearing technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants to help develop spoken language skills at an early age. Children in our early intervention programs are exposed to social situations early which stand them in good stead for [the] future," said Ms Davis.
Jim Hungerford, chief executive of The Shepherd Centre, said most parents of a child with hearing loss do not have hearing loss and that this research will provide reassurance.
"We know that early intervention helps children with hearing loss develop above-average spoken language skills. Now we also know that these children can succeed as well as their hearing peers in social situations," Mr Hungerford said.