The mission statement of the Carel du Toit Centre is straightforward and easy to understand for parents who feel discouraged by the discovery of their child’s deafness.
We believe, and know, that children with hearing loss have the same capacity as children with normal hearing, to learn to speak.
We believe that children with hearing loss must be exposed to day-long listening through the use of appropriate hearing-aids or a cochlear implant.
A hearing environment is created at the Centre, the same as for normal hearing children, where the child with a hearing loss will learn to speak by learning to listen in a natural environment.
Listening experiences and natural interaction create an intensive speech-development environment, which leads the child to linguistic competence. This process continues throughout the school years, laying a solid foundation for life.
The approach followed at The Carel du Toit Centre is based on the early identification of the hearing loss and the fitting of hearing-aids or a cochlear implant.
We believe that with early identification, providing there are no further complications, a large percentage of deaf children are able to acquire sufficient speech and language abilities in order to be able to adapt intellectually, socially and emotionally in a society of hearing people.
In fact, many of our pupils continue their education in Mainstream Schools.
Auditory Verbal Principles (AV)
At present there are no certified Auditory Verbal Therapists in South Africa, although WE Learn CEO Warren Estabrooks, mentored a group of South African therapists, audiologists and teachers in 2010. We are fortunate to have Early Interventionists at CHAT who were part of the original group, and also mentor students and offer courses through the University of Stellenbosch every second year.
The Carel du Toit and CHAT centres follow Auditory Verbal Principles undertaken to fit in with international best practice as much as the local circumstances allow. Underpinning Auditory Verbal Therapy is guiding and coaching parents, which has been part of Professor Carel du Toit’s vision for the Centre since its inception in 1973.
In pursuit of early diagnosis (the first principle of AVT), the Carel du Toit Centre’s Community Outreach Project (COP) was started in 2002 at Nolungile Clinic where babies’ hearing was screened as part of their inoculation programme. Throughout the years the dream of early diagnosis evolved under the guidance of Carel du Toit Centre Audiologists until a pilot project was launched for Newborn Hearing Screening in Maternal Obstetric Units (MOU), in partnership with the Children’s Hospital Trust and the Western Cape Government: Health. The Child Speech and Hearing Project subsequently rolled out as an effective screening tool in 2014. At the CHAT Centre we are now seeing the results of this initiative and the Carel du Toit Centre’s pioneering role in it, as the age of babies entering the programme – diagnosed and fitted as AV dictates – are increasingly younger.
The 10th AV principle is to promote education in mainstream schools with peers who have typical hearing and with appropriate services from early childhood onwards. It is our experience, in accordance with this AV principle that the younger deaf infants enter our programme with technology in place and families on board, the younger the children successfully leave the CHAT Centre to integrate into their local mainstream schooling. For those children with additional challenges or who have joined the programme when they are older, the Special Education services of the Carel du Toit Centre are there to support their journey to spoken language until Grade 3. The AV principles of using listening as their primary means of learning spoken language is applied naturally in the school. Promoting day-long use of appropriate technology, encouraging self-monitoring and self-reliance, regular assessments and partnering with parents, fits into the AVT approach. Our Grades classes follow a mainstream curriculum in small classes to help each child reach their unique potential and to be mainstreamed where possible.