Thanks to a range of developments over the past 30 years it is now possible for children with permanent hearing loss to develop age-appropriate speech, language and comprehension before they start school. This is enabling more children to attend mainstream schools. The three key enablers for this are:


  1. Newborn Hearing Screening – enabling early identification and diagnosis of hearing loss


  1. Major advances in hearing technologies (including hearing aids, cochlear implants and other devices) that enable the development of speech and language through listening


  1. The growth and development of Auditory-Verbal therapy (AVT) early childhood programs that are evidence-based and outcomes-focused.



Where jurisdictions combine infant hearing screening with free and universal access to modern hearing technologies and free or subsidised AVT, the outcomes are notable. Reports from Australia, New Zealand (and the USA) show that children who are deaf or hard of hearing have learnt to listen and speak through Auditory Verbal therapy have high rates of attending mainstream schools (> 90%); completing secondary schooling (>85%); undertaking tertiary education (>80%); completing a tertiary qualification (>60%); and gaining regular paid employment (>75%) (First Voice Report [2017] on education, employment & social outcomes of First Voice member centre graduates (18-28 years).

Similar results are seen in the UK in terms of Auditory Verbal therapy outcomes, where 80% of children who graduate from AVUK’s Auditory Verbal therapy programme achieve language appropriate for their age and most attend mainstream school,  but at present less than 10% UK deaf children and babies can access a programme of this kind. Therefore these outcomes are in marked contrast with those here in the UK. This article provides some insights into key differences in services, funding and access to AVT in the UK and Australia.

As the only charity in the UK that provides Auditory Verbal therapy, Auditory Verbal UK works closely with its counterparts on the other side of the world. This month AVUK has joined forces with centres in Australia and New Zealand for its fifth Loud Shirt Day on October 23rd to get LOUD and create a sound future for deaf children. Here we take a look at some of the differences in support available to deaf children in the UK in comparison to those in Australia. Unlike the UK,



  • Australian providers of Auditory Verbal therapy receive significant government funding.


  • The families of deaf children in Australia are more able to pursue the outcome they want for their child through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).


  • Subsequently, around half of deaf children in New South Wales, and up to 70% in Queensland receive Auditory Verbal therapy, compared to less than 10% in the UK.



Anita Grover, Chief Executive says:

"Far too many children in the UK are missing out on effective support in the critical early years of their lives. Whether a child uses spoken language, sign language or both, families need support right from the start. We look to the considerable impact of government investment in services in Australia and call on the UK Government to make the necessary investment that will enable deaf children in the UK to have the same opportunities in life as their hearing peers. We are proud to work with organisations across the First Voice Network in Australia, as well as in the UK to make this vision a reality.” 


     Anita Grover, Chief Executive of Auditory Verbal UK



Michael Forwood, a Director of First Voice and former CEO of the Cora Barclay Centre in Adelaide, South Australia comments:

It’s hard to understand why governments have been so slow to invest appropriately in early intervention speech and language programs (AVT) for deaf children. The social and economic benefits – for child, family, community and government - are enormous. For the government and taxpayer there is a proven, positive return on investment. For children and families there is a proven pathway to mainstream education and lifelong social and economic independence. What more could a government want?” 


Michael Forwood, a Director of First Voice

Auditory Verbal UK wants to see all deaf babies and young children have the same opportunities in life as their hearing peers. The charity provides a programme for families who want their child to develop listening and spoken language. It also provides training in Auditory Verbal practice for health and education professionals working with deaf children across the UK, Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.

Globally, access to and awareness of Auditory Verbal therapy has developed in different ways but organisations are united in their ambition to challenge outdated and limited perceptions of what deaf children can achieve, and to promote increasing access to support in the critical early years of their lives.

One significant channel of this international collaboration is through the First Voice network, made up of member organisations that provide listening and spoken language early intervention services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing across Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  Auditory Verbal UK joined this growing network in 2018.


In the UK, one to two of every 1,000 children born in the UK has hearing loss and around half of these children will be severely to profoundly deaf. There are 7,200 deaf children under 5 years of age in the UK of whom approximately half will have severe to profound deafness. However AVUK receives no direct government funding and therefore relies on generating income from fees and fundraising in order to carry out its vital work. There are currently only 25 Auditory Verbal therapists (AVTs) in the UK, 10 of whom work at AVUK. This means that less than 1 in 10 of children who may benefit from this support, have access to it.


Australians enjoy a publicly funded healthcare system much like the NHS, and, like in the UK, policies surrounding key areas of society, such as education and health, are divided between the local, state and federal/national levels of government. 


As in the UK, all newborn babies in Australia are offered a hearing screening test, to identify children at risk of permanent hearing loss at the earliest possible instance. Babies diagnosed with hearing loss are provided with appropriate hearing technology such as hearing aids or ultimately, implantable hearing devices. In the UK, state-funded support doesn’t necessarily end here, but it will likely come from differing places across local governments, and encompass varying levels and types of support. This is where NGO’s and charities such as Auditory Verbal UK are playing a key role in offering support for the families of deaf children, pursuing whatever outcome it is they want for their child.


In Australia however, the state support extends much further than this, and is centralised at the federal level of government. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) strives to facilitate access to the support that is right for as many of the families of deaf children as possible.  On the NDIS website it is stated:


“[The NDIS award] will include a reasonable and necessary level of funding for early intervention supports you are assessed as needing. Once approved, you can use this funding straight away with the early intervention providers you choose”.


It’s important to acknowledge that the experience of families accessing NDIS funding is not uniform, and there are myriad reasons that not everyone would receive the total support they need. However there are several organisations who have highly specialist practitioners running evidence based, family centred programmes to equip parents with the skills and strategies to support their child’s language development.  One such organisation is Hear and Say, active for almost 30 years. Hear and Say’s funding partly comes from fundraising, some is made up from clinical fees, often indirectly from NDIS awards, and the remaining 40% of their income can be directly attributed to government funding. As a result, they estimate that they provide support to 65-70% of the deaf children in their native Queensland.


Hear and Say operate in Queensland, Australia


Head down south to New South Wales and you’ll find The Shepherd Centre. They similarly estimate that around 37% of their income comes directly from government with the rest coming from clinical fees and fundraising. However they estimate that for every child with hearing loss they support, there is another child not receiving the specialist support they need.


There is much work still to be done in both Australia and the UK.


The Shepherd Centre are based in New South Wales


AVUK does this by consistently campaigning for increasing government support to enable access to Auditory Verbal therapy to the families of deaf children who want a listening and spoken language outcome for their child, as is so much more prevalent in Australia. In the mean-time, AVUK aims to ensure that a lack of government funding is as limiting a barrier to accessing Auditory Verbal therapy as possible through its bursary scheme, which offers progressive levels of support dependent on household income. Furthermore AVUK is constantly working to increase the number of practicing AVTs, not just in the UK but around the world also, through its training scheme.


AVUK is united with its Australian colleagues in striving to ensure as many deaf children have the opportunity to learn to listen and speak as possible. On Friday October 23rd Loud Shirt Day is a chance to celebrate this life-changing work, challenging perceptions of what deaf children can do and contribute to funds that charities need to continue to create a sound future for deaf children.


Celebrities, schools, businesses and members of the public around the globe will be wearing their LOUDEST shirts in order to contribute to these vital efforts. If you too would like to get involved, you can visit the Loud Shirt Day website by clicking the button below:

Loud Shirt Day