Maddy hopes to 'rewire' her brain

17:00, May 23 2014
Maddy Fisher
BRINGING ORDER TO THE JUMBLE: Porirua teen Maddy Fisher and her mum, Tracey Fisher, hope an innovative new programme will help her auditory and visual processing disorders.

Words seem to leap off the page and turn into a jumble in 13-year-old Maddy Fisher's head.

She can't hear some speech sounds correctly either, which affects her comprehension.

"It's like listening to bad cellphone reception," her mum Tracey says.

Now they are both hoping a new programme being offered at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School will help to transform her life by "rewiring" her brain.

Last week, Marsden decided it would start offering the Canadian-developed Arrowsmith Programme in term 4 this year, involving cognitive exercises to improve learning ability.

In all, 10 Wellington students with learning difficulties will join the programme.


On Monday, Maddy's family launched a fundraiser on the Givealittle website to pay for her placement, which will cost $20,000 a year. "I think it will be just life-changing," her mother said.

Maddy's development issues were detected early on, partly because her oldest brother, Ben, 19, also had special needs from a stroke before his birth.

"At 6 weeks old, she wasn't responding to sounds in the same way as my other children," Tracey Fisher said.

By the time Maddy started school - she is now at Newlands Intermediate - her speech and language were well behind her peers, so she had remedial literacy tutoring for three years, before being diagnosed with auditory and visual processing disorders three years ago.

Specialised hearing aids have helped, but she still has challenges with reading, writing and comprehension.

In February, a review into auditory processing disorder was published, commissioned by the ministries of health and education. It noted the disorder's incidence was about 5 per cent among children, but could be six times more prevalent in Pacific Island children.

Its management was "fraught with issues" because of a lack of consensus in diagnosis, interventions and getting best outcomes. The review recommended establishing a national expert reference group to address those issues.

Bill Keith, an Auckland expert in auditory processing disorder, said it was a type of deafness that occurred in the brain rather than the ears, but children were often misdiagnosed with dyslexia or other learning disorders.



For details on donating to Maddy Fisher's cause, go to 

The Dominion Post