Sounds of science emerge in Brisbane to help deaf children worldwide hear and speak
To Emma Rushbrooke, the gift of sound and ability for people to hear is a privilege not many fully understand.
The Clinical Director at Hear and Say, a Queensland non-profit organisation that focuses on early intervention services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, has seen and heard a lot when it comes to helping people access the kind of life most of us take for granted.
One full of the sounds all the natural world has to offer. And she says it is something that can be achieved by almost everyone.
“For me it's about enabling every child with hearing loss to have the same opportunity to listen and speak like typically hearing children to expand their choices and live a life unlimited,” Rushbrooke says.
“We know that the majority of children born with a hearing loss today can achieve listening and spoken language on par with their hearing peers but the best outcomes can only be achieved with early diagnosis, access to hearing technology and specialist listening and spoken language therapy.
“At Hear and Say we work with the parents and carers as well as the child as it’s a parent-led program.”
Working for more than 20 years as a paediatric audiologist and a listening and spoken language therapist, Rushbrooke has witnessed first-hand the pace of change that technology has delivered to the profession and the positive impact on outcomes.
It was this experience and deep knowledge within her profession that made her the perfect candidate for - and recipient of - the The Lord Mayor's Convention Trailblazer grant.
The grant program gives Brisbane professionals the chance to attend a leading international conference, meet people from within their industry and to help position Brisbane as a world-class host city for conventions and business events.
This saw Rushbrooke head to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the 2018 AG Bell Convention - an event that attracts over 800 allied health professionals, in particular those who specialise in teaching children with hearing loss to listen and speak, from around the world.
“The knowledge and networking opportunities gained from attending the 2018 AG Bell Convention were invaluable,” she says. “The quality of the presentations was very high, and I brought back much to share with my colleagues at Hear and Say.
“Also of note is the high esteem in which the Australian model of care and early intervention for children with hearing loss is held, and I believe that this will be a drawcard for an Australian-based convention.”
Thanks to Rushbrooke’s expertise, outstanding relationships within her profession and the doors opened by the Trailblazer grant, the chance to attract the AG Bell Convention to Brisbane has now become a reality.
It’s in the calendar for Brisbane to host the symposium in March 2021.
“The AG Bell Convention has a significant potential impact for Hear and Say, the paediatric hearing healthcare sector and Brisbane as a city.” Rushbrooke says.
“This conference will significantly boost Hear and Say’s profile, enhancing our reputation as specialists on an international scale, and showcasing our Brisbane HQ as a centre of excellence for paediatric hearing healthcare, research and training.
“Brisbane is an ideal destination for this event, particularly as Australian professionals are highly respected in this specialised healthcare field. This conference will attract both local and international professionals, particularly from the Asia Pacific region.”
Rushbrooke says the process of applying for and being awarded a Lord Mayor's Convention Trailblazer grant strengthened her collaboration skills and key relationships with people in Brisbane, her industry and the AG Bell Conference.
“I actually found the application process very straightforward,” she says. “I think going through the process of having to be interviewed [for the Trailblazer grant] was a good learning experience for me, meeting those people on the panel.
“Brisbane Economic Development Agency has been a wonderful support, in particular, assisting with the bid document for AG Bell. I've learnt a lot in that process and I'm very, very grateful for that.”
Rushbrooke has also enjoyed meeting and collaborating with the other Trailblazer grant winners “It’s been a good opportunity to learn what other people are doing and good relationships have been forged which I’m sure will continue to flourish.”
To complete the picture, Rushbrooke was named the Chair of the AG Bell Academy Board last year - a first for an Australian - making the prospect of seeing the conference hit the Sunshine State even more special.
“I think the wonderful thing is that Australia actually is recognised internationally for its excellent level of service for children with hearing loss,” she says.
“I don't think a lot of people are aware of how amazing the outcomes are and now that more than 90% of children in Australia are screened for hearing loss at birth, early intervention is exponentially improving their ability to speak and hear and engage in all aspects of life..
“We are doing some great research here in Australia and now we are being recognised internationally for our excellent level of service for children with hearing loss. I’m really excited we will be hosting the first conference of its kind in Brisbane.”