Hertfordshire Deaf Boy Delivers Letter to No 10

Living Magazines Grimer family at No10

Deaf nine-year-old delivers urgent letter to Prime Minster calling for more support for deaf children, as new research reveals lack of awareness of what deaf children can achieve.

  • Orson, born deaf, delivers letter to Prime Minister calling for Government to invest in therapy that supported him to learn to listen and speak.
  • Ahead of Deaf Awareness Week, (2-7 May), new research shows only around a third (38%) of adults in the East of England believe a child born profoundly deaf can learn to speak as well as a hearing child – this is just under the national figure of 41%.
  • But with early and effective support with Auditory Verbal therapy, deaf children can learn to speak like their hearing peers – as Orson proves.
  • Charity Auditory Verbal UK is calling for early and effective support for all deaf children, with urgent investment needed so every family who wants their deaf child to learn to listen and speak can access Auditory Verbal therapy through publicly funded services.

Deaf nine-year-old Orson Grimer went to Number 10 Downing Street on 18 April to ask the Prime Minister and the Government to urgently invest in early and effective support for all deaf children, including the life-changing therapy which helped him to learn to listen and speak.

Orson and his family delivered their letter, backed by hundreds of supporters, to Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Steve Barclay, as new research revealed that only 38% (41% UK wide) of adults in the East of England believe a child born profoundly deaf can learn to speak as well as a hearing child.

Born prematurely Orson, from Aldbury, was diagnosed as deaf at his newborn hearing screening. Devastated by the diagnosis his parents were determined that his opportunities in life and future would not be restricted by his deafness. Orson had Auditory Verbal therapy, provided by charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK), for two years before graduating with spoken language skills ahead of his hearing peers. Now, aged 9, he is flourishing at mainstream school where he proudly talks about being deaf and being able to listen and speak thanks to early and effective support.

AVUK is the only charity in the UK providing Auditory Verbal therapy – the transformative family-centred, early intervention programme which supports deaf babies to learn to listen and speak. They want all deaf children to have access to early and effective support, whether their parents choose to communicate with spoken language, sign language or both.

Ahead of Deaf Awareness Week (2-7 May) – which highlights hearing loss and challenges the perceptions of deaf people – new YouGov research, commissioned by the charity, has revealed that around a quarter (23%) of people in the East of England believe it is not possible for a child born profoundly deaf today to learn to speak as well as a child without hearing loss.

Orson proves it is possible with early and effective support of Auditory Verbal therapy, with the research also revealing that 83% of adults in the East of England believe Auditory Verbal therapy should be available to all deaf children via publicly funded services (ie, the NHS), while only 1% think it should be paid for privately.

As she prepared to go to Downing Street, Orson’s Mum, Avril reacted to the survey results. ‘Orson is proof that deaf children can learn to speak as well as a hearing child and that hearing loss should not be a barrier to deaf children achieving their potential. We took the decision to support Orson to learn to listen and speak with Auditory Verbal therapy so that he can have the same opportunities in life as a hearing child.

‘But only a small number of families have access to this life-changing programme which is why we are calling for Government investment so that no deaf child is left behind.

‘We are delighted that our letter has had the backing of more than 400 people and we really hope by visiting Downing Street and delivering it in person Orson can show and explain the difference that AVT has made to his life and our lives as a family and why other families should be able to get this support if they want their child to learn to listen and speak.’

Orson said: ‘Being deaf is part of who I am and it has never stopped me doing anything I want to. It isn’t fair that all deaf children don’t get the same opportunities that I have had, and I really hope the Government listen to us, so every deaf child gets the support they need.’

AVUK Chief Executive, Anita Grover, who joined The Grimer family in Downing Street today, said: ‘We know that deaf children in the UK 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, like Orson, and their families have access to effective, early support, deaf children can get an equal start at school and their opportunities are transformed. This is critically important whether a child uses sign language, spoken language or both. There is not one approach that works for all families of deaf children.

‘That is why we are asking for Government investment to ensure all deaf children can access early and effective support with no cost barrier, close to their homes. All deaf children should have the same opportunities in life as their hearing peers – and yet results of this survey published for Deaf Awareness Week have exposed the public’s knowledge gap of the different ways that deaf children can communicate and what they can achieve.’

Auditory Verbal therapy supports deaf children process the sound they get from their hearing technology, like cochlear implants and hearing aids, to develop language so they can learn to talk like their hearing friends. When deaf babies receive hearing technology, the brain needs to learn how to make sense of this sound as they don’t magically work on their own.

More than 97% of deaf children (without additional needs) who attend an Auditory Verbal programme for two or more years achieve listening and spoken language skills on a par with their hearing friends and the majority attend mainstream school. This is in stark comparison to figures which show that deaf children have achieved an entire grade less than their hearing classmates at GCSE for at least the last five years.

But currently only 8% of deaf children under five in the UK have access to an Auditory Verbal therapy programme.

Auditory Verbal UK wants to see all deaf children have the option to access Auditory Verbal therapy through public funded services. Its #HearUsNow campaign is calling on the Government to make an investment of just over £2 million a year, for the next 10 years, so the UK can provide a sound future for deaf children and unlock economic benefits of £152m, rising to £11.7billion over 50 years.

Orson’s letter backing the charity’s campaign and delivered to Number 10 calls for a meeting with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to urgently discuss increasing access to the life changing early intervention.

For more information visit www.avuk.org.