A wonderful friendship was created between Sr Mary Lawson and Allyson (nee O’Brien) when they first met in 1977 with Sr Mary, Allyson’s teacher at the former St Patrick’s School, Fortitude Valley.

In 1977, Allyson’s parents were already very involved with the school yet initially Allyson was not allowed to enrol due to her hearing impairment.  Sr Mary advocated for Allyson’s enrolment and was unperturbed by people telling her it was not possible to teach Allyson in a class of hearing children.

Allyson was the first child with a profound hearing loss whom Sr Mary taught. Allyson remembers Sr Mary ensuring she was happy and learning and not scared of the hearing children in the class. 

Connecting with and teaching the 5-year old Allyson and another student the following year at St Mary’s Ipswich,  sparked a challenge for Sr Mary in how best to engage in learning, young students with hearing impairment or loss.

Inspired by the experience, in 1979, Sr Mary took a previously unplanned path to focus her studies and broaden her teaching skills in the specialised area of hearing impairment, which became an abiding interest and area of study.

Sr Mary Lawson and Allyson (nee O’Brien)

Sr Mary continued to assist, and support Allyson from Grade 1 to 4 until Allyson moved from St Patrick’s due to its closure.  This great start under Sr Mary’s guidance as well as the encouragement of her parents and sisters, who were always very proud of her achievements, contributed to Allyson’s schooling success and graduation from Year 12.

Sr Mary’s study culminated in her researching and writing a PhD thesis completed in 2002 through the University of Melbourne, titled, “The Effect of Intervention in Pretend Play on Social Participation of Pre-Adolescents with Severe to Profound Hearing Loss”.

An achievement even more remarkable for the fact, Sr Mary continued working full-time for Brisbane Catholic Education while completing her thesis.

Allyson is very appreciative of Sr Mary’s friendship, support and encouragement and her involvement in pivotal moments in her life; writing the Mass booklet for Allyson’s wedding, assisting at the christenings of Allyson’s three children and all the chats and time spent together over 45 years. Sr Mary and Allyson are still in regular contact, although living in different parts of Queensland, and recently caught up in person for a good cup of tea in January 2020. (pictured)

Learn more about Sr Mary Lawson’s journey to a PhD thesis in The Object she has at heart at Adderton: house & heart of mercy from 1 February 2020.

* Banner Image:  Sr Mary Lawson’s PhD Thesis, Greg Henderson Photography