Guest blog: Deaf Awareness Week AVUK trainee Deaf Awareness week 2022 runs from the 2rd-9th May and a new YouGov survey published by AVUK has found: 38% of surveyed adults believe it is possible for a deaf child to learn to speak as well as a hearing child 27% do not think it is possible 3% believed speaking is the most common form of communication for children born deaf in the UK This got me thinking about my own professional journey to understanding what deaf children can achieve. Before I started my Bachelor of Science in Speech and Language Therapy I hadn’t knowingly met anyone who was deaf other than my grandad who had lost his hearing due to the natural process of ageing. I would have likely made up the 27% of adults surveyed who do not think it is possible for a deaf child to learn to speak as well as a hearing child. This is also, generally speaking, the experience reported by hearing parents of deaf children (Mitchell & Karchmer,2004) and 93% of deaf children are born to hearing parents in the UK (NDCS, 2021). Degree: To qualify as a Speech and Language Therapist I studied how language develops. Human babies are born ready to listen to and learn language but without language input from caregivers a child’s language development will progress little past their innate ability to make sound with their voice. Children learn to talk by hearing other people talk to and around them. It’s perhaps no surprise therefore that 27% of adults surveyed would assume that a child with hearing loss would not be able to learn to speak as well as a hearing child and they wouldn’t be wrong, if the hearing loss were to go unaided. Yet today’s digital hearing aids and cochlear implants can give deaf children access to the full frequency range of speech sounds at soft levels which is needed in order to develop spoken language as well as a hearing child (Estabrooks 2016). I learnt that deaf children are at risk of language deprivation and whilst studying I learnt some British Sign Language (BSL). I learnt remedial therapies developed for children with communication disorders. Professional Experience: Once qualified, I put my learning into practise and worked with school-aged deaf children with speech and language difficulties that meant keeping up with the curriculum was challenging. In line with the national picture (CRIDE, 2021) most children I worked with used primarily spoken English to communicate, others used primarily BSL and others were learning both. I also worked alongside wonderful deaf colleagues with diverse language backgrounds. I knew that deafness is not a learning disability and so it is devastating that annual figures published by the NDCS show that deaf children have achieved an entire grade less at GCSE than their hearing peers for the last five years. At this stage in my career, I reckon I’d have been within the 3% of adults surveyed who believed speaking is the most common form of communication for children born deaf in the UK but that a deaf child could speak as well as a hearing child? Not until I met my first Auditory Verbal Therapy graduate. With some support, he was keeping up with his mainstream hearing peers and let me tell you he loved school! Not only could this profoundly deaf child speak English as well as any other hearing child, he was in fact bilingual. He catapulted my expectations so that I’d be within the 38% of surveyed adults who believe it is possible for a deaf child to learn to speak as well as a hearing child, but I remember thinking, was he a rare case? AVUK Foundation Course: Since then however, I have met more children who can speak just as well as their hearing peers; who participate in life to the full. I now work for one of the 16 Auditory Implant centres in the UK and since January of this year I’ve been a student of Auditory Verbal UK’s Foundation course and I’m learning just what it takes to support a family to achieve these very realistic spoken language goals. I now know precisely which frequencies are important to access for which speech sound to develop. I now love it when friends ask me about my job and my course. I tell them that hearing loss alone is not a learning disability but it has been termed a neurological emergency (Dornan, 2007). I ask them, “Do you know babies babble more when they can hear themselves babbling?” (Fagan, 2014). Still, more than a third of adults are not aware that a child born profoundly deaf can learn to listen and speak as well as a hearing child yet 80% of children who spend 2 or more years on AVUK's programme do. This is thanks in the UK to early detection (NHSP 2001), prompt audiological management and the advanced knowledge and skills of the Auditory Verbal professional. That being said, access to Auditory Verbal Therapy for those families who want it is not standard care like audiological testing, hearing aid fitting and referral on to a Cochlear Implant centre is. Raising public awareness therefore is vital because having this knowledge means we can call for government action on early intervention funding. Let’s all dream big for all deaf children! Read Sophie's Initial Blog here. Consortium of Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), Education provision for deaf children in England in 2020/21. Available from: <www.ndcs.org.uk/information-and-support/being-deaf-friendly/information-for-professionals/research-and-data/consortium-for-research-into-deaf-education-cride-reports> D.Dornan (2007) Executive Summary: Hearing Loss in Babies is a Neurological Emergency. Hear and Say Australia. M.K. Fagan., (2014) Frequency of vocalization before and after cochlear implantation: Dynamic effect of auditory feedback on infant behavior. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 126 pp.328-338. Estabrooks., K. Maclver-Lux, & E.A. Rhoades,. (2016)Auditory-Verbal Therapy: For Young Chidlren with Hearing Loss and Their Families, and the Practitioners Who Guide Them. R.E. Mitchell,& M. Karchmer. “Chasing the Mythical Ten Percent: Parental Hearing Status of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the United States.” Sign Language Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, 2004, pp. 138–63. National Deaf Children’s Society Infographic Poster (February 2021) “Information About Deaf Children and Young People in the UK.” Newborn Hearing Screening Programme commissioned by the Department of Health in 2001.