Deaf Hertfordshire Nine-year-old Launches Charity Petition to get Government Support for Life-changing Programme

Orson Grimer with Angela Rayner

Orson Grimer, who was diagnosed with hearing loss as a baby, is calling on the Government to support and fund the life-changing programme which helped him to listen and speak this World Hearing Day (Friday 3 March).

Now flourishing at school, Orson, from Hertfordshire, attended charity Auditory Verbal UK’s (AVUK) specialist family-centred programme for two years when he was younger before graduating with language skills ahead of hearing children of his age.

Orson’s Mum Avril is backing AVUK’s #HearUsNow campaign and has written to Health Secretary Steven Barclay MP calling on the Government to ensure every family who wants their child to learn to listen and talk will be able to access an Auditory Verbal programme through publicly funded services in their local area.

Avril and Orson have also launched an online petition calling for Government to invest in the play-based Auditory Verbal therapy. She said: ‘AVUK truly changed both Orson’s life and ours as a family. From all the worries we faced after his hearing loss was diagnosed to the amazing support of everyone at the charity. Now Orson is doing so well at school where he proudly talks about being deaf and the support we, as a family, were fortunate to have.

‘All families with deaf children should have the opportunity to access Auditory Verbal therapy through publicly funded services. We are urging the Government and Health Minister to #HearUsNow.’

In October last year Orson and his family met with MPs, including Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Angela Rayner, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP and Rosie Duffield MP at Westminster calling for more support for deaf children like him and they are repeating their calls to mark World Hearing Day – an international awareness day for deafness, hearing loss and ear and hearing care.

Auditory Verbal therapy helps deaf children process sound they receive from hearing technology, like hearing aids and cochlear implants, and supports them to develop language so they can learn to talk like their hearing friends.

AVUK Chief Executive Anita Grover explained: ‘At present 92% of deaf children who could benefit from Auditory Verbal therapy are unable to access it. We need urgent support and investment from the UK Government to improve outcomes for deaf children.

‘There are approximately 7,200 deaf children under the age of five in the UK who currently face the prospect of lower academic achievement, lower employment, and are at higher risk of poor mental health, bullying and social exclusion. But it doesn’t have to be this way. When children and families have access to effective, early support, deaf children can get an equal start at school and opportunities are transformed. This is critically important whether a child uses sign language, spoken language or both.’

A YouGov survey commissioned by 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.

A staggering 97% of children without additional needs who attend AVUK’s specialist family programme for at least two years achieve the same level of spoken language as their hearing peers.

Central to AVUK’s vision is for all deaf children to have early access to support which is right for them and its #HearUsNow campaign is calling on the Government to make an investment of £21.5million over the next 10 years, so that we can provide a sound future for deaf children and unlock an economic benefit of £152million, rising to £11.7billion over 50 years.

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