From diagnosis of profound deafness to top university: an AV journey Anna and her family were one of the first families to attend sessions at AVUK. Now, her son Peter is 18 and about to start the next stage of his life – university. Anna tells the story of her AV journey. When Peter was born and we wanted him to speak we had no idea that it was a very political decision at the time. At the the time there was still a very strong lobby for Deaf issues to remain separate, for Deaf people to use sign language rather than to speak; AV therapy wasn’t particularly known or recognised. Indeed, when I said that I was going to do it for Peter I was met with opposition. Thankfully some years later joined-up thinking took over, and everyone (local audiology services, teachers of the deaf, etc.) got on board and realised that it was best to work together. The early intervention made all the difference. Although, I’m not sure if we even count as “early”, as Peter was 4 before we found Jacqueline and AVUK. But the combination of the correct hearing aids (thanks to Josephine Marriage) and the excellent teaching at AVUK meant that Peter did get what he needed. It meant that speech was a reality for him. What it did was show Peter that he could do it, and also made him understand that discipline was required. He wasn’t allowed to shortcut any of the exercises, and that perhaps was one of the keys. Peter luckily did respond very well, although I know I was worried that he wasn’t progressing as fast as some of the others (I know, I know, never compare….). It’s that “don’t ever give up” mentality that I think did it. Peter was made a prefect at school, and the headmaster told me that in the speech that all new prefects were required to give about themselves Peter had specifically talked about his deafness and how we never gave up on him, never “settled”. That really brought tears to my eyes; I didn’t hear the speech but was touched that the headmaster thought it was important enough to seek me out to tell me. It’s of course not just me, it’s all the people who together worked so hard for Peter. You asked about my proudest moment; that perhaps was it. Seeing him get an award at literally every speech day in secondary school was also good, of course. Peter has always been a child/young person who is deaf, rather than a Deaf Child, with capital letters — that is perhaps another way that the early intervention made all the difference. Yes, his deafness is always there, but in truth even if it does describe him, it doesn’t define him. He always acknowledges it, but it doesn’t stand in the way, if that makes sense. Josephine Marriage (Chear)had him come to speak to a group of audiologists and trainee audiologists a year or so ago, she, too, was making the point that it made sense to aim high. Peter is so “normal” despite profound deafness that most people have no idea of the severity of the actual problem. He’s always known that he has to work somewhat harder because of it, but he then gets on with it. Peter has had his ups and downs about deafness, has definitely felt the effects (particularly when banter is flying round the school grounds), but on the whole has never denied it and never been ashamed of it. Indeed, he wore bright blue hearing aids and ear moulds until very recently; he just now decided to have clear ear moulds before he goes to university. He’s now about to begin a course at the University of Bath, doing a Master’s in Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering; he will find all the “usual” challenges of university life, plus probably a few extra, but we are confident that he will deal well with it all. I’m not going to say it was easy; indeed, it took over all our lives for years. But I’d do it all again, it is so, so worth it. For more information on the Listen and Talk as One initiative with Josephine Marriage (Chear), please get in touch.