Many of us find ourselves walking life-changing paths we would never have thought possible. For some, those paths reveal themselves in the midst of challenging times. This was the case for Bruce and Annette Shepherd, founders of The Shepherd Centre.
Beginning the journey
After becoming parents to two profoundly deaf children, Bruce and Annette Shepherd found themselves facing challenges that would forever change not only the course of theirs and their children’s lives; but the landscape of early-intervention for deaf children across Australia and the world.
It was the 1960s and deaf children were almost always sent away to special schools instead of being integrated into mainstream education. Youngsters were taught to sign and finger spell so they could communicate but this alienated them from most of the hearing world and, often also from their own families back home. This seemed absurd to the Shepherds as it kept children from fully participating in the world around them – a world filled with sound.
Determined to provide their son and daughter with the best chance at finding belonging and connectedness in the world, Bruce and Annette searched for a service that could teach their hearing-impaired children to listen and speak. Finding nothing suitable in Australia, they were not deterred and continued their search abroad.
Discovering a new approach
Extensive research led them to an American early intervention service based in Los Angeles. The John Tracy Clinic, founded by actor Spencer Tracy and named after his deaf son, modelled an approach embracing both the integrated educational values and family ethos that the Shepherds were searching for.