Leah is the eldest of five siblings (pictured above) and was born with a profound hearing loss. She is now a happy and fun-loving teenager at mainstream school. Here, her mother Deena shares her story. 

Discovering that Leah had a hearing loss came as a terrible shock as we had not suspected that anything was amiss.  Although my mother had asked us when Leah was less than two weeks old if she could hear properly we assured her that no doubt her hearing was fine. Leah was born shortly before the newborn hearing screening programme was rolled out so it took until she was three months that a hearing loss was suspected.

Once it was confirmed that Leah was deaf we felt like we were swimming underwater - wondering around in a fog with so many worries, fears and an endless amount of questions….would Leah ever speak at all? Would she hear us say we love her? Be able to communicate with her grandparents, cousins and friends? Would she even be able to make friends? Go to school? Speak on the phone?

Discovering AVUK

We spoke to many professionals, parents of deaf children and even some deaf children themselves.  Everyone we spoke to was so kind, helpful and patient, and luckily for us we were directed to AVUK, and after the first few appointments we felt a glimmer of hope for the future.

At our first appointment, the therapist was so positive, and explained everything so clearly.  The AV approach seemed to make so much sense, and we left feeling a sense of relief that we had finally found a programme that might really help Leah to talk.

Getting access to sound

It took a while to get fitted with hearing aids which clearly didn’t do much for Leah. Eventually she was offered a cochlear implant. The process to receiving an implant was a very long one with many tests to ensure Leah was a good candidate for the implant. 

We were getting tremendous support from AVUK at this time who reassured us that it was worthwhile to have therapy sessions before the implant even though Leah could not yet hear a thing, and they were so so right.  The wait for Leah’s first implant at 22 months felt almost unbearable but we were kept busy with so many appointments and AV sessions.

After switch on, Leah’s progress was nothing short of miraculous - within a few months she started to say words, and the joy and gratitude we felt with each new word and then sentence is simply too deep to describe.

Leah was offered a second implant shorty before her fourth birthday - she was one of the first children at GOSH to receive a second implant, and thankfully her hearing and speech improved dramatically after that.

The impact of early intervention

By age five Leah had almost age appropriate speech and was doing so well in Reception class in a mainstream school with LSA support. 

AVUK has helped our family by gifting us with the tools to teach our profoundly deaf child how to speak and listen.  

The tools we have been taught are invaluable and have helped us with Leah’s younger siblings (three brothers and a sister).  We naturally used the AV approach with them all and were overjoyed when they all spoke early and with an incredible vocabulary to boot!  

The warmth that we were shown by the whole AV team made our sessions a real treat that we looked forward to and enjoyed, however hard they might have sometimes been.   

We felt valued by AV and supported by them in every possible way.  They loved meeting Leah’s younger siblings when they came along, and we felt and continue to feel valued by the whole team.  

When Leah needed extra support in Year 5, AV stepped up to the plate and gave us the sessions we needed, and helped Leah in their typical fun way. We know that if Leah faces any future challenges, then we have AV ready to support us however we need it.  

We feel that AV is an important part of our lives, even now, when Leah is 13 years old  -  a happy, lively, fun loving teenager who loves chatting and is in mainstream school with LSA support where necessary.

Thank you AV!!

Updated September 2022 

Covid and lockdown were hard for Leah, she hated the zoom sessions, and it was hard to be stuck at home without seeing friends face to face.  The phone was difficult and it was a really stressful time.  As a family we made a point of being outdoors in one of the many local parks each day, and we did allow Leah to socialise i

n person with one friend who had recovered from covid very early on.  This was a lifesaver for Leah (but of course at some point it became a bit intense and Leah was just desperate to see some different faces!)

Leah threw herself back into school and work once things finally went back to normal.  She worked really hard and I'm so grateful to report that she passed all the GCSE'S she sat - we are so proud of her and so, so thankful.

Leah has been involved in many volunteering activities over the last few years.  She regularly helps out at various families who need help with their children, she has taken part in a sponsored mud run, and during lockdown she conducted a zoom session for over 20 children, helping them create a lovely craft project. This zoom was very daunting for Leah, but we encouraged her to go for it, and she did a marvellous job.  Leah - together with her close friends - has also been running day camps for young children during the last two summer holidays.

Leah has just begun Year 12 and is studying graphics, photography and Health and social care amongst other subjects, and she is thoroughly enjoying the freedom and perks that come with year 12!  Leah is looking forward to obtaining her provisional driving license and learning to drive.

- Written by Leah's mother, Deena

Leah pictured in 2019