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  • Writer's pictureThe Hearing House

Ripper Rugby, riding his bike and reading – all in a day’s work for six-year-old Owen Gaudin

Another of our Loud Shirt Day ambassadors is six-year-old Owen Gaudin from Blenheim. Receiving cochlear implants when he was just six months old, Owen loves riding his bike, playing with his cousins and hanging out with his little sister, Grace. 

“He’s a remarkable little boy,” says his mum, Kate. “Nothing holds him back – he just loves life.” 

Six-year-old Owen Gaudin has higher than average listening skills for his age, is a great storyteller, and loves riding his bike and playing with his cousins. He’s also profoundly deaf. The Blenheim schoolboy had surgery for bilateral cochlear implants when he was just six months old after his deafness was picked up in a newborn hearing screening test.  

Owen’s mum Kate Gaudin says the technology is a “modern miracle” which has enabled Owen to lead an active, busy life which revolves around his loving family. 

“He couldn’t be happier,” says mum Kate, who also has a daughter, Grace, who’s recently turned three.  

“He’s a remarkable little boy,” she says. “Nothing holds him back – he just loves life.” 

Owen has also recently been diagnosed with retinal dystrophy – a suspected genetic condition affecting both his peripheral and night vision. Currently, Owen only has a small amount of usable central vision. 

Although he needs help with many day-to-day tasks that a lot of people take for granted, it hasn’t held him back from throwing himself into activities and sports, including Ripper Rugby. His dad Hayden is the team coach and wears a wireless microphone device which transmits speech directly to Owen’s cochlear implants. 

“So, there’s no chance that Owen could miss his Dad’s sideline coaching tips,” says Kate. “He’s more connected to what the coach is saying than anyone else on the field!” 

Owen attends Fairhall School, just outside Blenheim, which Kate says offers all the best elements of a smaller, close-knit rural school. 

“Everyone knows him, and looks out for him,” she says. “There’s a real sense of community there which Owen thrives on. School is his happy place.” 

But Kate says their journey hasn’t always been easy. 

“It’s been the hardest and the most rewarding thing we’ve had to go through,” says Kate. When I found out that Owen was profoundly deaf, I cried all the way home thinking he was never going to say mum or dad, or hear our voices. But he’s taken off in leaps and bounds, and is meeting – and exceeding - all his developmental milestones.  

“I still get emotional talking about it,” says Kate. 

“The gift of sound is the best gift we could have given Owen. His progress is incredible – I pick him up from school and he’s absolutely buzzing.  We’re so proud of his progress.” 

Owen’s assessment and cochlear implant surgery was provided by the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP) and he continues to make regular visits to receive speech and language therapy from their Christchurch team. 

Kate says the team at SCIP have become firm friends after nearly six years of working closely together with Owen and his family. 

“We’ve had our dark days,” she says.  

“But all it takes is to spend some time with Owen, just to see just how well he’s doing.  

“This is all ‘normal’ to him. He’s so happy! And we’re forever proud of him.” 

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