Deaf children and young people met Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, on Thursday, February 15, sharing their stories and achievements showing what is possible for deaf children with early and effective support and discussing what needs to change to help them thrive. 

Award-wining charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK), which supports deaf children learn to listen and speak with Auditory Verbal therapy, welcomed the Commissioner who heard directly from young deaf people about the difference early and effective support has made to them and their families, now and for their prospects for the future.

Deaf young people like teenager Hope (13) who shared her story with Dame Rachel, saying: “When my parents found out I was deaf they found themselves in a very scary and unfamiliar place with no experience of deafness. They also received lots of negative comments about my abilities and my potential to achieve and were worried about what the future would hold for me. I attend mainstream school, love music and playing netball, proof that we can do anything we set our minds to, but this has only been possible with specialist early support. My parents wanted me to learn to listen and speak and chose for me to have Auditory Verbal therapy and when I graduated my speech was ahead of a typical hearing child. I wouldn’t be the girl I am today without Auditory Verbal therapy.”



A YouGov* survey commissioned by the charity AVUK, revealed that more than a third (35%) of adults have no idea that a child born profoundly deaf can learn to speak as well as a hearing child. 

AVUK Chief Executive Anita Grover said: “Perceptions and expectations of what deaf children can achieve are really outdated and far too low, including many not knowing that deaf children can learn to speak as well as a hearing child. We know that with early and effective support to develop language and communication, deaf children can and do have the same opportunities in life as their hearing peers. And early, effective support should be available to all deaf children, whether they use sign language, spoken language or both.

“It was brilliant to welcome Dame Rachel to Auditory Verbal UK and meet deaf children and young people who learnt to listen and talk with Auditory Verbal therapy and are challenging outdated expectations of what they can achieve. Dame Rachel’s passion to support each and every child do the very best they can is inspirational, and why it is so important that there is investment in early and effective support for deaf children.”

Dame Rachel also met Mia (9) and her sister Gabriella (2) who were joined by Mum Rayan who is also deaf. Rayan explained: “My life was very different to my daughters – growing up in Sierre Leone as a deaf child there was very little support but I knew I wanted something else for my girls. As a deaf parent, I was determined for them to achieve their full potential and we chose for them to learn to speak. Thanks to the Auditory Verbal therapy programme which supported us as a family, Mia loves singing and reading and is flourishing at school alongside her hearing friends. When Gabriella was also diagnosed as deaf as a baby, we had no hesitation in starting Auditory Verbal therapy with her as well and she is going from strength to strength.”





Auditory Verbal therapy is a robust, evidence-based approach that supports deaf children to learn how to make sense of the sound they receive through their hearing technology (such as hearing aids or cochlear implants) so they can learn to talk like their hearing friends. Research shows that more than 80% of deaf children who attended an Auditory Verbal therapy programme for at least two years graduated with spoken language on a par with their hearing peers – this figure rose to 97% for children without additional needs.

Cambridge 11-year-old Louis loves reading, especially Anime books, playing computer games with his friends and playing tennis and he explained to the Commissioner: “Being deaf has never stopped me joining in with all the things my friends do. I’m in my first year at secondary school and it’s been brilliant to try different things and make new friends. I know this has been possible because of the Auditory Verbal therapy I had as a baby and it isn’t fair that more deaf children don’t have the opportunities I have had and will have as I grow up.”

Khush, from Kent, is 12 – he plays the piano as well as hockey and cricket and is at mainstream grammar school. He said: “Auditory Verbal therapy really gave me a head start and I can get involved in all aspects of school life and have all the same opportunities as my hearing friends. Thanks to Auditory Verbal therapy the world is my oyster.”

Currently less than 10% of deaf children, like Louis and Khush, who could benefit from Auditory Verbal therapy can access it. 

Auditory Verbal UK are calling for urgent public investment of around £2 million a year for the next 10 years to train the 300 specialist Auditory Verbal Therapists needed to ensure all deaf children under the age of five have an opportunity to access the specialist programme close to their home and through public funded services.