Ariella's Story The youngest of three daughters Ariella’s hearing loss was picked up following at her newborn hearing check and confirmed at five weeks old as associated with a connexin 26 gene mutation. At eight weeks Ariella was fitted with beautiful pink hearing aids and the family were supported by a wonderful Teacher of the Deaf and other families they met at a mother and toddler group which had been recommended. Mum Sabrina learned sign language and Ariella picked up signing well but Sabrina was concerned about her lack of baby babble. “When Ariella was diagnosed I did not feel the shock many other families describe but as she grew and seemed nowhere near speaking, my concerns increased. It was then that I decided to contact AVUK who had been recommended by another family when she was first diagnosed. “At our very first appointment our therapist raised concerns that Ariella’s hearing aids were set too low – they were still based on her initial scores as a baby. Following a further hearing test and adjustments to the hearing aids we were able to carry on with the session and by the end Ariella had said her first word “up”! The next day Ariella imitated me when I told her the noise a cow makes. This was the magical moment I had been waiting for. “The sessions that followed saw Ariella adding more and more to her vocabulary but most importantly they were equipping my husband and I with various strategies and tools to help Ariella’s listening and language skills emerge. We were able to see Ariella’s personality shine even more and her understanding and listening grew. “Her language has taken a little longer but at every hurdle, AVUK have helped dissect the problem and formulate a plan to help the development. AVUK have kept me sane and they are always so positive, in my bleak moments they really have turned on a light. I have never had an issue with Ariella’s language that they have not been able to help with. “ Because of the global pandemic, AVUK moved quickly to ensure it continued to support all families and all sessions were provided online. Sabrina explained: “Thanks to COVID-19 most of Ariella’s 2020 sessions have been done via zoom and to my surprise, they have gone really well. I am much more instrumental in getting Ariella to talk and participate in the activity at hand and therefore I am learning on the spot and then putting the strategy into practice immediately. It definitely feels much like parent coaching and is benefitting all of us very well.” The family have also benefitted from The Family Bursary Scheme which ensures that income is not a barrier to deaf babies and children receiving support. Sabrina explained: “When looking into AVUK initially it was very handy seeing the fees and the bursary assistance on the website. Knowing what the upfront cost was but also knowing how much discount could potentially be given gave me the push to contact AV. Had the bursary information not been provided or worse still, had a bursary not been offered, I would not have contacted AVUK at all. I simply would not have even tried. It sounded amazing but the cost without a bursary made it unachievable for us.” As Ariella continues to develop her Mum added: “AVUK have been instrumental in equipping my husband and I with the skills needed to help Ariella’s listening skills to develop and they have never let us down when trying to get Ariella to grasp new concepts. “Without AVUK I am not sure how Ariella’s development would have been, she is able to play with her sisters Elisabetta and Alessandra and will be attending the same school as her sisters." In July 2021 Ariella graduated from the AVUK programme and will be starting mainstream primary school with her sisters in September. Read more about Ariella's momentous summer.