The Shepherd centreIt was seeing the Shepherd Centre present at AG Bell in 2013, that first birthed the idea for this trip in my mind. They were talking about their database, now affectionately known as ‘CDIS’ and all that it let them do in monitoring the progress of the children they work with that really had me saying ‘we need to see this in action!’

The Shepherd Centre was founded in 1970 by Bruce and Annette Shepherd, who refused to believe that their son, who had a hearing loss, could not be mainstreamed. It now has a world-leading AVT programme, spread across five centres in New South Wales. I was lucky enough to be able to visit 4 of these, experiencing the equality of services families receive at each location, whilst the ‘feel’ of the centres varies dramatically. This varies from their Centre at Macquarie University where they are located in the pioneering ‘Hearing hub,’ along with speech science and audiology students and many other research and therapy services for children with a hearing loss. This contrasts from their other centres such as Liverpool which is really routed in the local community.

Seeing CDIS in action surpassed my expectations. It’s a fully electronic way of keeping information on all aspects of a child’s care,THe Shepherd centre toysand allows automatic flagging to team meetings if a child isn’t making expected progress. It is also able, with the expertise of the data analysis team, to show outcomes that are challenging the rest of the world in terms of outcomes based on age of amplification, and outcomes for implanting children with moderate losses and unilateral hearing loss. It lets them show the variables that influence success in a way we would love to be able to demonstrate in the UK.The Shepherd centre play room

At the other end of the spectrum, the other area they are really keen on is providing group sessions for children of all ages. Whilst these are really more about enabling parents time to talk, and learn, they are so well received by families and definitely something we can build on in the UK. ‘Talk Together’ is for parents of newly diagnosed babies and children, where they can get equipped quickly with all the audiological knowledge and AV basics, as well as have a support system of other parents who ‘get it.’ From here they can progress through ‘Kidscape’ up to ‘Confident Kids’, their social skills groups programmes for children before they enter mainstream school, covering topics such as negotiating, teamwork and theory of mind.

And the bonus highlight? Seeing my first ‘live’ cochlear implant switch on for a three year old child – the look on her face as she had access to sound for the first time and so joined the ‘hearing world’ in which her family lives, was absolutely priceless.


This post was written by our Clinical Lead Rosie as part of her research trip to Australia and New Zealand, thanks to the Winston Churchill Memorial Fund. Read more:

Travels of an AV Therapist

First stop: Brisbane – Hear and Say

Getting envious of the technology…visit to The Royal Institute for Deaf and Bling children

Follow Rosie on Twitter @RosieQuayle for all the latest updates