After a healthy pregnancy, Orson was unexpectedly born three months early. It was fair to say that after 61 days across intensive and neo-natal care we had gone through every possible emotion and we were ready to leave hospital. 

So when we were told they couldn't get a reading from one of Orson's ears at the newborn hearing test we didn't really worry. Fast forward three months, sitting in a dark room, Orson had the first of many hearing tests. The devastation when they told us Orson had mild-moderate hearing loss was immense. Over the next year we came back and forth for eight further hearing tests, each time they were able to uncover a bit more information. Just after his first birthday he had grommets put in, and finally, at 18 months, his bilateral hearing aids were fitted and he was officially diagnosed with moderate-severe high frequency sensorineural hearing loss in both ears (his hearing loss has been caused by a mutation on the Connexin 26 gene).   

We were aware that there are many different forms of communication available for deaf children but we felt very strongly that we didn't have the right to take away any potential choices for Orson before he was able to make the choices himself. So, we took the decision to ensure Orson could learn how to listen and speak so that had the opportunities that other hearing child had.

Initially we had an upsetting response from some people in the Deaf community. We heard from many Deaf adults that hearing parents of deaf children should have no right to make decisions on behalf of their deaf children. That all deaf children should just sign as that's their 'key' language. This upset us as we felt that to be able to provide support for Orson, we needed unbiased information, so that we could make informed choices for our son. Over ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents (just like us) so without unbiased support and information it is a scary journey.

I spent a lot of timing researching on the internet and contacting different children's charities to understand what I could expect from having a deaf child, what their future could hold and what technologies and therapies were available.  Whilst Orson would always be deaf, we did not want his opportunities and future to be defined and restricted by his deafness. Being deaf is not a learning disability.

My cousin in Australia told me about Auditory Verbal therapy and we found another parent who had been on the AV journey ten years ago. We did lots of further research on the benefit of AV before contacting Auditory Verbal UK.

We started Auditory Verbal therapy when Orson was 2 years old. It became part of our daily lives and Orson loved his bi-monthly sessions with his therapist Frances. Orson graduated from AVUK at 4.5 years old, tracking a year ahead for his age on the Preschool Language Scales assessment. For a young boy who cannot hear the sound of a bike bell, birds singing and the doorbell ringing without his hearing aids it was an incredible achievement.

We wanted Orson to be a kind and confident boy, who has the resilience to overcome set-backs, who understands his hearing loss and is able to communicate his needs to his friends, teachers and family. Most importantly we wanted to equip him with the skills and knowledge that he can achieve whatever he wants in life as his hearing loss will never hold him back.

The value that AVUK brings to the table is more than just helping the child learn to listen and speak like their hearing peers. It's been much more rounded for us. We've learnt how the auditory part of the brain works - the role of theory of mind, it's importance in communication and childrens' mental health and the role of executive functioning in day to day learning and life.

I also think that AVUK helps children understand their deafness and what they can achieve from public speaking, to fundraising and raising awareness. The ability to discuss what's on your mind is key to the mental health challenges that are so prevalent in deaf children. We were shocked to find out that 40% deaf children are likely to suffer from mental health problems.

Orson is like any other 8-year-old; sporty, an avid reader, he could chat to you for hours about Harry Potter and how to play Terraria, he loves riding his bike, doing karate and annoying his younger sister! 

Orson has had to work through various challenges linked to his deafness at school. Learning how his radio aids work, the best position to sit in the classroom, understanding games and conversations in the playground, the ability to tell his teachers and classmates when it's too noisy, when he's misunderstood or doesn't understand a task. He's become at expert at cleaning his own hearing aids and changing the batteries!

Orson has talked at school assemblies to explain to the whole school why he wears his hearing aids and why they are so important to who he is. His school has been incredible with supporting both us and also Orson. It has highlighted to us the importance of giving your deaf child enough tools to have the confidence to help themselves.

At the end of the day, hearing or not hearing, life is challenging and you need the resilience to pick yourself up, try again and ask for help. The ability to discuss how you are feeling is key to the mental health of our future generations.

Auditory Verbal UK has been our lifeline, our emotional support and has certainly kept our mental health in check! They've gone above and beyond to help us as a family, Orson and his school. We will be forever in debt for their support and we are looking forward to getting Orson more involved with the charity as he gets older to help younger deaf children and their families.

- Avril, Orson's mother