We are Joanna and Andrew Callaghan. And this is the story of, our son, Sam.

In August 2011 we introduced our son Samuel into the world. At five weeks, Sam was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf. We were devastated. Why him? Why us? No one in our family was deaf and we had no experience of knowingly meeting anyone else who was deaf.

‘Fear of the Unknown’ is an often used phrase but, for the first time in our lives, we were scared.

Scared for our son’s future.

Hearing aids would prove of no practical use as there was next to no hearing to amplify. We thought that we would never be able to speak to him… We wouldn’t hear his views and opinions on life, culture, politics… Nor, more importantly, would he ever be able to hear us tell him we love him.

We worried about him making friends. Would he be able to go to mainstream school? How would he communicate with friends? How would WE communicate with HIM? And how would we cope with this additional challenge as two new, first time, parents? 

So many questions. And so few answers. A year on and it would transpire that, Sam was lucky. It sounds almost perverse to say out loud but he was lucky that his level of deafness was as severe as it was. He proved to be a suitable candidate for cochlear implants and was implanted just before his first birthday.

What a birthday present!!!

Sam now had access to all the speech sounds. Armed with this miraculous knowledge, we knew immediately that we wanted to follow an oral approach to his communication rather than sign language.

A friend of a friend (isn’t it always the way?) recommended Auditory Verbal UK(AVUK) to us. In fact, HIGHLY recommended AVUK to us. Despite living on the south coast of England we made the long journey to Bicester as we wanted to explore all of the options open to our deaf son.

Straight away we knew that Auditory Verbal therapy (AVT) was what we wanted for Sam.

After our introductory meeting, we were sent a video copy of the session. And continue to receive a video copy of each and every session that Sam attends. This is GREAT for the other parent if they are unable to attend. Or, simply as a reference tool, when we are putting the techniques we are shown in to every day practice.

We are given, mutually agreed, take home goals to work on with Sam, in between sessions. At first this was very daunting; not knowing what to do to help Sam to speak. We have come to embrace these ‘take homes’. It is great having a structure to work with. Especially one that enables Sam to not only grasp concepts but develop his UNDERSTANDING of the world around him.

And the best thing about the ‘take home’ goals?

They are REALISTIC and ACHIEVABLE. We have worked with the highly trained teams in both Bicester and the equally fantastic London centre as it is closer to our home!! 

In addition to the expert speech therapy approach we wanted, we came to realise that we would get a lot of invaluable support along the way. Both procedural and emotional.

AVUK have been of immense help with Sam’s Education Health Care plan; writing detailed reports to facilitate this and to assist in our ambition of delaying Sam’s entrance to his chosen Primary School’s reception year.

Nothing is too much trouble for the team at AVUK. There is ALWAYS someone available to be contacted for help and advice. For us the stand out moment for me was when, our therapist, Frances informed us that Sam had obtained age appropriate speech following an assessment. I can feel my eyes welling up now! 


Now aged nine Sam loves school and has lots of good friends. Sam is proud of his deafness and has delivered presentations, to the class, on his cochlear implants. Sam is very confident and will happily stand up in front of the class to speak. Sam is exactly age appropriate with his learning but is exceeding age expectations with his spelling and reading. 

Sam loves science, especially space. Most of his free time revolves around making planets, constructing rockets with Lego and drawing maps of the universe.  He is already excited about going to university to study exactly what he wants to. He spotted a job title on a documentary recently, that of an Astrophysicist, which sounded right up his street! 

We did try to seek out the positive aspects of lockdown for our family. We spent a lot of time walking on the South Downs near us, making a den, bird watching and just being together in one place at the same time as a family. Home schooling presented the odd challenge but, for the most part, it was a constructive period. It was great for Sam to have consistent one on one teaching and for us, as parents, to see how he works and increase our awareness of any areas that he may need support with moving forward at school.

 AVUK has been life changing for Sam. And us. AVUK helped give Sam the confidence and tools to find and use his voice. Since graduating from AVUK, Sam’s deafness has never held him back. His speech is remarkable, as many people (professionals among them) often observe and comment on. 

AVUK were a tremendous support. Sam had a very lengthy language delay (beyond that expected post cochlear implantation) and AVUK were there to help and guide us along the way. Sam wouldn’t have achieved, thus far, and continue to achieve his full potential without their support and advice. 

Just like the friend of a friend before us, we cannot recommend AVUK highly enough to anyone.