Mojo Mathers says Government discriminates against some children with hearing problems
Mojo Mathers, New Zealand’s first deaf MP, has told the Kāpiti Independent that some children with a hearing disability are being discriminated against by Government. This ear wax cleaning doctor from Kapiti can testify to that claim.
In the first of her monthly columns for the Independent, Ms Mathers says children with the hearing processing disorder APD are not getting funded for hearing aids – and are struggling to learn at school.
Ms Mathers, who came into Parliament as a Green list MP in the last election, is the party spokesperson on disability issues. Here’s her report…
Parents worry about lack of support for their childrenBy Mojo Mathers, MP
Since entering parliament in December last year, I have been contacted by many parents of deaf and disabled children about the difficulties they have in accessing essential support.
Like parents everywhere, they want their children to reach their potential, and not be unfairly disadvantaged by having a disability.
Parents face ‘uphill struggle’
As I pointed out in my maiden speech, early identification and intervention is essential for children with disabilities if they are to participate in our education system on anything approaching a level playing field.
But some parents face an uphill struggle just to get their child’s impairment recognised.
Last week I attended the launch of a parent support group called “Hear for Families” in Christchurch.
Along with the National Foundation for the Deaf, Hear for Families is working to get Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) recognised as a hearing disorder by the government.
According to Bill Keith , audiologist and CEO of Sound Skills, a clinic specialising in APD:
“Auditory Processing Disorder is a hearing disorder in which the ears process sound normally, but the brain cannot always understand or ‘hear’.
“Children with APD may exhibit signs of hearing loss, especially when there are competing sounds at even moderate levels…yet they pass standard hearing tests conducted in quiet.
“APD affects an estimated 3-15% of children … and most go undiagnosed.
“APD can present as a learning or behaviour problem and can cause under-achievement because these children are missing out on vital information”
Good and bad news, says Ms Mathers
The good news is that positive outcomes in both learning and behaviour are often obtained for children with APD once they are equipped with remote microphone hearing aids.
The bad news is that these hearing aids are usually not funded unless the child also has a hearing loss or other disability.
Currently children with a hearing loss receive free hearing aids and other free services.
But because the government does not recognise APD as a hearing disorder, most children with APD are excluded from accessing this support, leaving many of them struggling to participate in the classroom and holding back their education.
This is clearly inequitable. Adults who require a hearing aid, are eligible for a basic government subsidy of $500 per aid every six years no matter how wealthy they are.
It is time for APD in children to be recognised as much a hearing disorder as other forms of hearing loss and funded as such.
The investment rapidly pays for itself with children able to participate in the classroom more effectively, taking up less teacher time and reducing the need for other intervention.