Meet Izak Shepherd and you find a vivacious young boy with a passion for life.
However, reaching that point has been a battle that would involve a whole community. For him, the youngest son of Ray and Kathy, it was a battle that started on a cool Toowoomba morning in 2004.
That morning his mother Kathy Shepherd cared little for the city’s beautiful autumnal colours. Following up on a number of sever infections that had Izak’s eardrums to burst and robed her son’s ability to comprehend spoken language, Kathy took Izak to a third in a series of hearing tests that included an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test. The ABR provided information about his inner ear or cochlea and his brain pathways for hearing.
That combination of tests delivered the worst possible result. Izak had profound hearing loss, yet explained why in the year he turned four he could barely speak enough to say ‘mum’.
An exhaustive round of testing preceded surgery and the fitting of a cochlear implant in his right ear that a hearing aid supported in his left.
Then they were introduced to Hear and Say Centre in Brisbane, a charity supporting profoundly deaf children.
‘I was really impressed that they took the time to see us there and then, without an appointment.’
Kathy says Dimity and her team provided them with the hope that he would ‘achieve, be able to speak normally, would grow and be able to interact with his peers.’
Izak grew and went to school. Kathy and Ray searched hard to find Izak a school that they felt would best support his hearing needs. Ironically, while living in a regional city known for its plethora of quality schools, the Shepherds chose to send their youngest son to school in the tiny western Darling Downs town of Dalby - Dalby South State School. It proved to be a prudent choice.
An hour’s drive west from Toowoomba; Dalby South State School embraced Izak and his family’s needs with remarkable enthusiasm.
The school realised that Izak needed a special sound field system in his classroom and in every classroom in which he would work. They also recognised that the sound system would improve every student’s ability to hear well in the school.
Largely thanks to the commitment of the small community, through the parents and citizens association in combination with the school, the school and the community heard Izak’s plight, understood the technological solution would help him and every child in the school community, and equipped a sound field system in most classrooms.
The plight of one profoundly deaf child, with help from Hear and Say, had inspired an entire school community.
The result - after nine years he is uninhibited by deafness, he wins awards for speech and drama, takes on indoor rock climbing with brother Matt, cracks stockwhips and plays cards with his grandfather, enjoys his father’s classic Ford, or yarns over lunch with his family. And it all happens thanks to a community ready to listen.
Words by David Gilchrist
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