According to an Ashburton parent, a “scratch-to-win” Lotto card pays for a child’s medically recommended hearing aid because it doesn’t meet government criteria.
Wendy Black and her family won an instant win with a lotto card on Father’s Day last year, just a month before her daughter Zoe was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder (APD).
“We were very lucky to be able to self-fund a remote microphone hearing aid system for her. And I mean literally lucky,” Black said.
The lottery win covered the cost of $7,000 for Zoe’s diagnosis, speech therapy and a hearing aid.
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“If we hadn’t won this at the time, we would have had to go to the bank for a loan. We consider ourselves lucky. We only have one chance to give him an education,” she said.
Auditory processing disorder (APD) distorts a person’s ability to process speech as it travels from the ear to the brain. It is difficult to hear in a noisy environment.
“She struggled to pick up the professor’s voice in the background noise. In a busy classroom, she always said, what am I supposed to do? Black said.
Zoe’s audiologist’s “main recommendation” was a remote microphone hearing aid system, Black said.
However, Black said he received advice that his daughter did not meet the criteria for government funding because she was not failing at school.
According to the Ministry of Education website, a medical diagnosis of APD is not sufficient to guarantee treatment.
The student must also meet a number of criteria, including working at least one year below the expected level.
“Applications must include information indicating that there is a continuing barrier to ākonga participation and progress and that the school has plans in place to address these needs,” the ministry spokesperson said. of Education, Sean Teddy.
The criteria made no sense to Black.
“I remember thinking how stupid it was that you had to wait for your child to fail before you could get help. It’s the old ambulance at the bottom of the cliff,” Black said.
Due to the family’s recent lottery win, Black was able to pay $6,320 for the latest model microphone and hearing aids for Zoe.
However, not all families are so lucky.
“The Illness of a Rich”
Audiologist and APD specialist Lisa Seerup said it was difficult to get help for APD without having access to money.
“Hearing loss is a problem of poverty among children, but it is treated like a disease of the rich. You don’t get tested unless you get that kind of money.
“Test [for APD] costs between $600 and $1,800,” she said.
Around 6.2% of children experience APD, and for children in the Pacific Islands, this percentage rises to around 34%.
“This disproportionately affects Maori and Pasifika students. It’s common in people living in damp homes and can be caused by ear infections,” she said.
Children who don’t receive APD support are often treated as disruptive students, Seerup said.
“Kids in classrooms who don’t have access to money are treated like bad kids, they act for no reason, but really they can’t hear.
“There is a significant loss of confidence, a reluctance to go to school, fatigue, a loss of social skills and a lot of frustration. Some have reported depression in their children,” she said.
APD lawyer Leonie Wilson says the Department of Education should not be able to determine whether a child with APD has access to hearing aids.
“Highly trained audiologists diagnose these children, prescribe hearing aids, and then someone from the education system says they can’t access them.
“Because [the children’s] the hearing loss is in another system of the ear-brain relationship [than other hearing loss]these children are excluded and discriminated against,” Wilson said.
Department for Education spokesman Sean Teddy said the department was aware of parents’ grievances over ODA funding and was working on a more holistic system.
“We are aware that there can be frustrations for whānau who have an ākonga who may have hearing loss.
“Assessment of auditory processing disorders is the responsibility of audiologists, while funding for the Remote Microphone Hearing Aid System (RMHA) for students receiving additional learning aids at school is the responsibility of the Department of Education,” Teddy said.
The Department for Education is working with the Department for People with Disabilities to create “lifelong” hearing support for students with diagnosed hearing loss.