Menangle Park toddler the face of campaign to help hearing impaired and deaf children

Front and centre: Three-year-old Mikayla Mooney is the face of the Shepherd Centre's 2018 Tax Appeal campaign. Picture: Simon Bennett
Front and centre: Three-year-old Mikayla Mooney is the face of the Shepherd Centre's 2018 Tax Appeal campaign. Picture: Simon Bennett

One of the first hold-your-breath moments as a parent comes shortly after birth when your child is wheeled into a small room for a routine newborn hearing screening test.

It’s painless and the majority of newborns pass without a hitch. Others, like three-year-old Menangle Park resident Mikayla Mooney, are not as lucky.

The toddler – who has moderate to mild hearing loss in both ears – was recently announced as the face of the Shepherd Centre’s 2018 Tax Appeal campaign, which aims to raise $175,000 for its services throughout NSW, Tasmania and the ACT.

It was the Shepherd Centre – a not-for-profit organisation who help deaf or hearing impaired children learn to listen and speak through early intervention – that came to the rescue following Mikayla’s diagnosis.

Mikayla’s mother, Sonia Young, said it was fitting that Mikayla returned the favour by becoming the face of this year’s campaign.

“I was quite taken aback when they asked if Mikayla was interested,” Ms Young – who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis shortly after Mikayla’s diagnosis – said.

“I was really happy and surprised that they thought her little story would be a good one to share.

“It was a proud mummy moment.”

Front and centre: Three-year-old Mikayla Mooney is the face of the Shepherd Centre's 2018 Tax Appeal campaign. Picture: Simon Bennett

Front and centre: Three-year-old Mikayla Mooney is the face of the Shepherd Centre's 2018 Tax Appeal campaign. Picture: Simon Bennett

The toddler struggles to hear when loud background noise is present.

While Mikayla’s speech is not perfect, Ms Young said without the Shepherd Centre it would be much worse.

“The last few months her speech hasn’t been very good – she can’t string full sentences together,” she said.

“She hears conversations but only in parts, so that’s how she learns to speak.

“But the Shepherd Centre has put her on track. The change in her has been really good.

“Without the Shepherd Centre I would have had no idea where to start or what she needed.”

Front and centre: Three-year-old Mikayla Mooney is the face of the Shepherd Centre's 2018 Tax Appeal campaign. Picture: Simon Bennett

Front and centre: Three-year-old Mikayla Mooney is the face of the Shepherd Centre's 2018 Tax Appeal campaign. Picture: Simon Bennett

The closest Shepherd Centre to Macarthur is located in Liverpool, however one in Campbelltown is scheduled to open on Moore Street in 2021.

In the mean time, a temporary Campbelltown site will also be set up later this year to help accommodate local children and their families.

Shepherd Centre chief executive Jim Hungerford said only 50 per cent of Australian children with hearing loss received early intervention.

He said the funds raised from the 2018 Tax Appeal would help close that gap.

“Our aim is to support as many Australian families as possible and to close the gap between children receiving support and those being left behind,” he said.

The campaign comes shortly after the death of Shepherd Centre founder, Dr Bruce Shepherd.

Dr Shepherd was instrumental in lobbying the state government to introduce the state-wide infant screening hearing tests.

He died on Friday, May 25, aged 85.

To donate, visit shepherdcentre.org.au/mikaylas-story.