In April, 19 year old Harrison joined us for a two week work placement. Harrison is one of AVUK's earliest graduates, having been taught to listen and speak with our founder Jacqueline Stokes.

Harrison wrote a series of blog posts for us, exploring various topics that are important to him and that relate to his deafness.

My Extended Project Qualification

In Spring 2015 I was studying for my A-Levels and I had decided to take on the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) to boost my UCAS application for University. The EPQ can be about anything, which is what makes it so great. I decided that I wanted to research my hearing loss. I had only heard stories from my family about therapy and implantation as well as seen photos and videos however I had never fully looked into it and understood it. Therefore I spent a year working on the research for the project, writing it up in a 5000 word dissertation and eventually presenting it to my class. My research consisted of factual evidence from websites (definitely not Wikipedia) and interviews with a former teacher of mine, the headmistress from my first school, and my father. Each person had pieces of information about how I had grown up and integrated into a mainstream school. At the end of all this I realised just how much support I had received over the years.

I started off with looking into my implantation. My parents found out I was deaf when I was 9 months old and I received my cochlear implant at 13 months old. This gave me the ability to hear sounds however implantation is just the first step of many and I had to learn how to interpret the sounds. I then went through various therapy sessions mostly in the back room of our flat at the time. However the standard adult therapy I received at the start lacked results and my mother was determined to help me. I started doing auditory verbal therapy which consisted of ‘games’ to get me to communicate better. When I was 4 my parents took me to the John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles where we spent two weeks with other families in similar situations. After 2 weeks I was able to say my name which was a huge milestone. Another big step was joining AVUK where I had support from Jaqueline Stokes. She became a family friend over the years and helped with my therapy.

I attended Kellett School in Hong Kong when I was 5 years old. The choice of school was a huge thing for parents and they looked into class sizes and other issues that would impact my learning. When I interviewed my headmistress she told me about the changes that were made to accommodate me. The surface in my classroom was changed to vinyl flooring which made the sound in the room much better. The interesting thing about the vinyl flooring is that it had such an impact in the classroom that when it came to building a new building for the school my headmistress insisted on all of the floors being vinyl. I also had a radio aid for my teacher to use and sat at the front of the class. I was eventually sent to boarding school in the UK at 9 years old to join my older brother where I had to be much more independent. I had support from the local council in the form of a teacher of the deaf who visited me weekly to check up on my equipment and also my school work. He would also discuss anything I had covered in class to check I hadn’t missed anything and understood it all. After 7 years and 3 different schools I completed my GCSEs and moved back to Hong Kong to complete my A levels. For my A levels I stopped using the FM and also started sitting wherever I wanted in the classroom instead of just the front area. I felt a lot more relaxed and settled in as a result of that. I also started going out with friends a lot more because it was a day school.

As a result of all this support I had when I was younger I can do things that people with hearing are able to do. I have always been in mainstream education which has benefitted me hugely. I can also use the phone, watch films and TV, and listen to music. Another big benefit for me was have a spare system. My parents brought it when I was 6 so when the government CI broke I could put the spare CI on. Most people have to wait for a replacement to come which can take up to a week bringing school or work to a standstill sometimes. Although there are certain things that I can’t do the best thing to do is to get on with it. I found that through my EPQ I was very fortunate to have had the opportunities I got and to have the strong will of my parents who pushed for better things.

Other blogs by Harrison:

19 year old graduate shares his plans for the future

Enjoying music with a cochlear implant