BEFORE tearing off back to the playground, five-year-old James Rankin stops long enough to tell us "I'm going to big school next year."
It's a big milestone in the life of any Queanbeyan kid, but James is particularly proud of his achievement, and is happy to tell everyone he meets.
"From the minute he gets up to the minute he goes to sleep, he doesn't draw breath," mum Megan Rankins laughs.
For the last five years James has been undergoing intensive listening and speech therapy at The Shepherd Centre in Canberra, after a bout of meningococcal meningitis at four months of age left him profoundly deaf.
Parents Megan and Terry were devastated to see their new baby boy spend two months in the intensive care unit at Sydney's Children's' Hospital, undergoing 14 operations to drain fluid from his brain.
He pulled through the ordeal, but there were lasting effects.
"One of the side effects of meningitis is hearing loss, and he lost everything," Mrs Rankin said.
"When we were told ... it's something that no one wants to hear ever," she said.
But James also left the Children's Hospital with cochlear implants embedded in his ears, a tiny technological miracle that has enabled him to hear and develop like any other little boy.
And regular speech and listening therapy at The Shepherd Centre has ensured James is as ready for kindy as any other local child, perhaps even more so.
He graduated from the Centre on Friday, and Mrs Rankin said the therapy had been a godsend.
"If it wasn't for The Shepherd Centre, we wouldn't be where we are today. They've held our hand all the way through.
"When you're in the house and you call out from a different room and he can hear you, it's a bit of a miracle really," she said.
So while many local mums might feel a little hesitant and emotional about sending their little one off to kindy in Februray, Mrs Rankin said she was excited for her son.
"I'm feeling good about it," she said.
"I'm amazed that he's achieved all he has. For us it's amazing that he's off to mainstream school just like every other little five-year-old."