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Talk Town offers innovative connection to deaf learners

Released in iOS App Store and Google Play today, Talk Town is a digital communication skills game for deaf tamariki. Talk Town utilises deaf kids' strengths to improve their self-advocacy, communication skills, make friends with their hearing classmates, and fulfill their potentials.

Many deaf children are left out of playground games and conversations because they can find it difficult to read social cues and form connections. Most deaf tamariki attend mainstream schools where they don’t have deaf peers or deaf adult role models. This means they don’t have a way to learn social and self-advocacy skills. Talk Town aims to change this, and ensure deaf children aren’t socially isolated. Seeing these communication breakdowns first hand, and the long term effects these have, was the initial inspiration for Talk Town.

Talk Town won the 2017 Entre Start Up Challenge and went on to win the Social Enterprise Kick Start category in the 2018 BNZ Start Up Alley. The game has also been funded by the National Foundation for the Deaf and Christchurch City Council’s Innovation Fund. Now, in 2019, the game is available to download.

Talk Town will help to remove barriers to friendship that may cause deaf children to be lonely. Audiologist Zoë Hector has teamed up with Speech Language Therapist Rosie Lamb to make the resource a reality. The pair want to “do things in new ways” for deaf tamariki.

In Talk Town, players create a character that can wear the same devices and communicate like them. They then follow through everyday situations for young people, such as going to the movies or getting their drivers licence. The game allows them to practice communicating and engaging with others in a safe and fun way.

Talk Town has been described as “desperately needed” and a “resource that will change lives” by parents and teachers alike. Talk Town is developed by experts, based on evidence - and incorporates feedback from deaf kids and real-life experiences of deaf adults. Through playing the game, users gain valuable skills that helps them to connect with their local communities - and, importantly, reduce possible feelings of social isolation.

Motivated by her experience growing up with a deaf sibling and her desire to make a tangible difference to people’s lives, Zoë completed her Masters of Audiology in 2018, after working for several years as a researcher in developmental psychology and Deaf studies. Rosie has worked in Deaf Education for 7 years, and is passionate about promoting effective communication skills and empowering Deaf/Hard of Hearing learners to become confident, healthy members of their communities - with a strong sense of identity. They are uniquely positioned to make Talk Town a reality for deaf children around the world.

Local Christchurch development company Stickmen Media have been working hard to produce a top-quality app-based game which is available now for download on iOS App Store and Google Play.

© Scoop Media

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