Even Portuguese! All three of Renata's sons were born profoundly deaf.
On International Day of People with Disability, a mother of three boys who were born profoundly deaf tells us how advancing technology and an early intervention program in Australia has seen her children flourish.
Sydney woman Renata Reis had all the usual hopes when she was pregnant with her first child. A “healthy, happy baby,” she told SBS News. But when Rafael was born, he came with a unique challenge. He was profoundly deaf. “We don't have anyone in the family with hearing loss so it was very unexpected, very shocking news,” she said.
Renata and her husband were told they shared a recessive gene and there was a one in four chance any future children they had would also be deaf. Their second and third babies, both boys, were also born with the same condition. Renata and Luca Renata with 10-month-old Luca. Amelia Dunn/SBS News "If you think ‘there’s a one in four chance,’ we're thinking ‘what are the odds? We've done it once with Rafael, I'm sure it will be fine this time, but no’,” Renata said. Her sons, Rafael, now seven, Gabriel, five, and 10-month-old Luca have all had surgery to be fitted with cochlear implants in their ears.
To Renata’s delight, it has meant they can hear almost everything, as well as be able to talk and sing. Early intervention key Renata also attributes their successes to The Shepherd Centre, a world-leading early intervention program that teaches children who are born deaf or hearing impaired how to develop spoken language. Following in his older brother’s footsteps, Gabriel has just graduated from the centre’s school preparation program that gives hearing-impaired children the skills, confidence and support to help them enter mainstream schools. Baby Luca is also taken to classes there. The program has been so successful that Renata took on the challenge of teaching her sons Portuguese - her first language - which Rafael and Gabriel can now speak fluently.
Dr Jim Hungerford said it is absolutely imperative children with hearing loss participate in early intervention programs. "By six months of age, if we're unable to provide them with the right hearing devices, their brain has already retracted so much that they can have permanent delays in their language.’’ “So it's incredibly important for people who've got a child who might have a hearing loss to seek urgent help as early as possible."