TODDLERS William and Hugo Schmid love many things about their toy dragons, but their favourite feature would definitely be their hearing aids.
The young brothers, born to Mackay Catholic mother Julianne Schmid, got hearing aids on their dragons after being fitted with their own pairs of “special ears” after birth.
Will and Hugo were both diagnosed with permanent hearing loss when they were just two weeks old, having been referred on the Queensland Government’s free newborn hearing screen.
Will was fitted with a hearing aid when he was six weeks old, and Hugo when he was nine weeks old.
Their plush toy dragons received their own hearing aids soon after their owners.
Mrs Schmid said unlike glasses, which corrected vision, hearing aids only amplified sounds and “with that comes a whole heap of issues”.
On the plus side, the devices have helped the boys improve their speech and allowed them to hear their parents, among others, better.
“I used to get comments from people, like ‘Oh, he wears hearing aids, the poor thing, I’m so sorry’,” Mrs Schmid, who is a parishioner at St Brendan’s Catholic Church, Mackay, said.
“But I’m not sorry … they’re just everyday kids, like everyone else – they just happen to wear hearing aids.”
As well as loving dragons with hearing aids, William and Hugo are also becoming little bookworms.
While looking for books on hearing loss, Mrs Schmid and her husband discovered there were no children’s stories about siblings who experienced hearing loss together.
“We haven’t come across any books so far that have had brothers or sisters or one of each with a hearing loss,” Mrs Schmid said.
“With our boys, they have each other, that’s all they’ll ever have, so we thought we’d celebrate that with a little story for them.”
What started as a private poem about her sons is now a children’s book on their life with a hearing aid.
And to the boys’ delight, their characters in the book are played by their very own plush toy dragons with hearing aids.
It is illustrated by Mrs Schmid’s cousin, J.P. Palmer and self-published by her own registered publishing business, 2 Little Princes.
The book, Bill and Hug – A Dragon’s Tale, tells the story of two dragon brothers with hearing aids and their daily experiences, such as battling constant echoes in an empty room, learning how to lip read to “fill the gaps” and how someone with hearing loss goes swimming.
It also explores the use of an FM radio system connected to a microphone, which Will owns and will take into the classroom when he begins Prep next year.
Will has already asked his therapist to read the book during his listening and spoken language lessons.
Nearly 60 copies of the book have been sold since they were printed last month, and a six-year-old girl with hearing loss has already asked Mrs Schmid to read the book to her classmates in Townsville.
But she hopes children without hearing impairments will pick up the book and learn about life with hearing aids.
“I can see this as a really important tool,” she said.
Mrs Schmid is working on developing educational resources that can be used in schools, and potentially publishing a bilingual version of her book with Auslan.
Bill and Hug – A Dragon’s Tale is available on Etsy for $9.95 plus $3 postage and handling, or by contacting Mrs Schmid on firstname.lastname@example.org.
WIN a copy of Bill and Hug – A Dragon’s Tale by Julianne Schmid. Simply tell us in 25 words or less what education resource or book you would write and why. Send your entry to GPO Box 282 Brisbane QLD 4001 or email email@example.com with the subject ‘Bill and Hug Book Competition’. Entries close April 24.
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