Paul Peryman, MA, Dipl Aud (Melb), MNZAS-CCC, Audiologist
Van Asch Deaf Education Centre
Christchurch, New Zealand
I work as a paediatric audiologist at van Asch Deaf Education Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. I have worked there for 30 years. During that time I have practised within a family-centred care model, in conjunction with the teams with whom I work in the Centre.
Part of my work includes meeting families with preschool and primary school aged children who are deaf/hard of hearing (DHH). These families are referred to our centre from around central and southern New Zealand and stay in residence for four days. During that time, they meet and work with a team which includes myself, a speech language therapist, a specialist literacy teacher, a specialist early intervention teacher, and a New Zealand Sign Language tutor. The families also meet other parents who bring their DHH children to our early intervention centre.
The objectives of our residential courses are to provide assessments of the children and guidance to the families. Immediate post-course ratings of each specialist area of assessment and support are received from families before their departure. In common with the approach of the Colorado Home Intervention Programme, evidence for modifying and continuing professional practice within the residential course teams has been based on both family and professional feedback (both internal and external), as well as international research within each team member’s professional speciality.
Some reasons why our residential courses work well
- An intense focus is provided on early language, hearing, signing, speech, visual communication, social behaviour, and literacy.
- Consistency exists for each family from across the team members.
- Family and child-centred focus – parents find this refreshing.
- Generous time frames and flexibility in courses, allowing the tailoring of courses to family needs and referrer priorities.
- Opportunities to meet other families and share experiences – especially beneficial for isolated families.
- Unique and relaxed environment – helps families focus on themselves and their DHH child’s needs.
- Presence of other deaf adults and children on the site is perceived as a positive characteristic.
- Family travel, accommodation and meal costs are supported.
Hearing family stories and experiences
Working with these parents and families involves hearing stories. The stories are invited and prove highly informative for the team. Hearing the stories and reflecting back to parents requires the display of empathy and compassion, as parents are often at the same time quite emotional. Some have not previously had the opportunity to tell their story, and it comes as a relief to do so and to be heard. Some parents have also had experiences of rushed audiological appointments, leaving them with little time to share observations and to ask the questions they want of the professionals. Those parents were feeling removed from the audiological management of their child; not understanding what was happening and what to expect. In some cases, parents didn’t believe the diagnosis, which they admitted had affected their willingness to persevere with the battle of keeping hearing aids on an infant who appears to hear.
It seems to me that this state of affairs comes about due to my hospital colleagues being so pressed for time that they have to reduce their service to one of meeting the required evidence-based clinical protocols, against which they are audited. While some try to resist this pressure, it is ever present. They are concerned that too much valuable clinical time might be used up once a conversation is entered, leaving them unable to complete the protocols. Colleagues have also said anecdotally that they feel ill prepared to engage in conversations that might become emotional or difficult. There is a feeling that stopping and allowing time for conversation will affect their appointment schedules and therefore cause them stress (Severn et al, 2012).