Children with hearing loss in Northern Ireland have access to specialist speech and language therapy and home-visits from their teacher of the deaf.  Prior to the collaboration between The Hearing Hub and Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK), Auditory Verbal (AV) therapy had not been discussed as an option for parents with a baby born with a hearing loss and there were no professionals working with children with hearing loss training to qualify as an Auditory Verbal therapist in Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Project

Abbie McKenna, established The Hearing Hub, an affiliated local group with the NDCS, to support parents of children with hearing loss, after they started travelling from Belfast to London on a monthly basis to access Auditory Verbal therapy at AVUK in October 2012.

Abbie invited AVUK to visit The Hearing Hub to speak to parents of children with hearing aids and cochlear implants. The aim of the visit was to share information about an Auditory Verbal approach and to share the possible listening and spoken language outcomes so as to raise expectations for children with hearing loss Locally, parents had been interested in the Auditory Verbal approach: Two families had attended our London centre for initial appointments and one of the families had joined the programme on a regular basis, travelling fortnightly or monthly to London. Families at The Hearing Hub wanted AV therapy to be available locally and many of the NI professionals in the hearing impairment sector were interested to learn more about the AV approach.

In June 2014, we launched our 12-month Belfast project in collaboration with The Hearing Hub, a Belfast based parent group, to enable access to AV therapy in Northern Ireland for the first time, with support from National Lottery funding.

Funding secured for the project enabled AV therapy sessions to take place every six weeks by a certified Auditory Verbal therapist at the families’ homes and local professionals were invited to attend where possible. Additional Skype sessions were offered to the families in between the AV therapist’s visits to Belfast.

Good progress was made by the families in the year-long project and the outcomes were presented at an international conference in 2016, available here. The rate of spoken language development increased for all of the children during the period of AV intervention. Two of the six children on the project graduated from AVUK with age-appropriate speech and language skills and with good social skills and three more families joined the programme in London as word spread about the impact of AV therapy. The project highlighted that i) effective habilitation can maximise the potential of individual children with permanent hearing loss  and ii) can also maximise the potential of ‘parent-child’ interactions. It has contributed to the continuing development of professionals working in the field of permanent hearing loss in Northern Ireland. Further information about the outcomes of AV intervention is available here.

Since the project

As a result of the Belfast project there are now four professionals in the field of hearing loss in Northern Ireland’s education and health sectors who are training in the approach through Auditory Verbal UK’s internationally accredited distance training programme. 35 Teachers of the Deaf across Northern Ireland have received introductory training and one Teacher of the Deaf is already due to become a fully credited Auditory Verbal Therapist in 2018/19 which will enable many more deaf children in Northern Ireland to have access to this transformational programme. Of the original group, one of the families will soon be graduating from the programme and other families have also joined the AVUK programme via telepractice.

We are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund's Awards for All programme, for enabling this project to take place and to pave the way for many more children with hearing loss to have access to a life changing programme.


Katie's inspirational graduation.

New deafness therapy that changed Katie's life