Starting school is a milestone for any child, but for Ascot Park boy Luke Stade it was a life-defining moment.
Luke, 5, was profoundly deaf until a cochlear implant restored his hearing in one ear two years ago.
Since then his language development has caught up with other kids his age, and he proudly took his place at Rangikura School last week.
Luke's mum Marcine Cooper says that after years of struggle and pain, Luke starting school on a par with other five-year-olds means there is light at the end of the tunnel for the family.
''That was one of our fears, that he wouldn't be able to start school with his peers, but he is able to. It's very pleasing.''
Despite Luke's dad Matt being profoundly deaf, the couple had no idea their son shared his disability until he was 18 months old, and his development was lagging.
He had been appearing to respond to his parents' speech and could say basic words like ''bye bye'', Ms Cooper says.
''It was a bit of a shock but I think we just dealt with it how any parent would. Your child needs help and you do anything you in your power to help.''
Within six months the family was flying to Christchurch to have a cochlear implant fitted in Luke's right ear, the first of 20 trips to Canterbury that year as the implant was fine-tuned and adjusted.
''It was definitely a testing time,'' Ms Cooper says.
''It was probably the longest two hours of my life when he was in surgery.''
The payoff came when Luke finally heard his mum's voice for the first time.
''That part of it was just the best. That reaction when he heard sound and he heard his mum, his face lit up.''
Luke's dad Matt Stade says Luke will breeze through school compared with his own difficult education.
''I used to have a teacher aide with me the whole time but with Luke he'll have a better lifestyle.''
Mr Stade, a drainlayer, gets by with hearing aids, but is on the waiting list for a cochlear implant, which will make him a different person, he says.
''Having a hearing aid is like having a microphone - there's white noise, it picks up all the background noise and sometimes you don't hear people talking,'' Mr Stade says.
''It was hard for me, but with Luke he doesn't have to have that.''
Loud Shirt Day, on Friday, September 21, funds post-surgery therapy for children with cochlear implants. It is a joint fundraiser by The Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Paediatric Programme. www.loudshirtday.co.nz
- Kapi-Mana News