Dr Dimity Dornan, AO is the Executive Director and Founder of Hear and Say.
“This is one story of how a new Auditory-Verbal Therapy program was started. I am telling it in the hope that someone, a parent, professional or friend, is prompted to start another program in an area where Auditory-Verbal facilities do not exist.
Early in 1991, having worked in other models of service delivery for children who are deaf or hearing impaired, and becoming interested in parent-based oral programs, I heard Judy Simser speak at a convention at the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The evidence of the progress of Judy Simser’s Auditory-Verbal children was very compelling, as were her words of confidence in her outcomes.
The Gulf War was raging, and as bombs were falling on Israel, I travelled home to Brisbane from the convention with another war going on in my head. How could I provide a similar Auditory-Verbal service for my clientele of outreach children who lived in Queensland but had to travel to The Shepherd Centre’s auditory-oral program over a thousand kilometres away in Sydney? And what about the other children who were deaf/hearing impaired whose families wanted me to see them in my private practice but who could not afford the fees?
My husband, Peter, provided the answer. With his blessing, I sought, and was later awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study Auditory-Verbal Therapy with Judy Simser and Warren Estabrooks. My express purpose was to set up a charity Auditory-Verbal Centre. Following a wonderful six weeks in their clinics: Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, and North York General Hospital, Canada, I returned home to good news.
There was an offer from The Shepherd Centre in New South Wales for a one year part-time seeding grant to get a clinic started in Queensland. At that time, a private group of 18 ear, nose and throat surgeons and a group of audiologists wanted to start a cochlear implant program in Brisbane, and I was asked to join with them to take care of pre-implant preparation and post-implant habilitation.
It was about this time, the point of no return, when I chanced upon my future motivating words, those of pioneer aviator Amelia Earhardt: ‘Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace’. I took courage and set up a charity board consisting of about twenty representatives including hearing professionals, business, finance, education and medical personnel.
The Hear and Say Centre for children who are deaf/hearing impaired and their families was born on 6 July, 1992. The title was chosen specifically to emphasise that children who are hearing impaired can learn to listen and to speak. The butterfly, which is unable to hear, was eventually chosen as the symbol of the new centre and six initial families were offered Auditory-Verbal services without charge. The rooms used were my own and my husband’s private practice rooms with him paying the bill for the overheads those first few years. A family friend, who was a lawyer, generously set up the legalities and the Hear and Say Centre was on the way.”
At 9.10pm on 24 October 2013 our beautiful daughter Maia was born.
The moment of elation was short-lived as we immediately noticed her left ear was missing. I frantically looked to the medical team around me for answers but received none.
Panic set in as we waited 4 days in hospital for an ENT to explain her condition, by which point we already had all the answers from Simone, who runs the Microtia and Atresia Program at Hear and Say.