Nine-year-old Orson Grimer has been High Commended in The Children and Young People Now Children’s Achievement Award in recognition of his campaigning work to enable more deaf children, like him, to have access to early and effective support.
Presented in a prestigious ceremony in London on Thursday November 23, Orson’s commendation recognises his efforts calling on the UK Government to ensure all deaf children, whose families want them to learn to listen and talk, have the opportunity to access the specialist Auditory Verbal therapy which supported him to listen and speak and transformed his life. Currently less than 10% of deaf children in the UK who could benefit from Auditory Verbal therapy are unable to access it.
Orson, from Aldbury, Hertfordshire, said: ‘It is amazing to be recognised in these awards and I hope that this will make more people, especially the Government, listen and take action so more deaf babies and children can have the chances and opportunities I have had.’
Together with his family Orson has championed the #HearUsNow campaign, led by charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK). He has delivered a letter to the Prime Minister at Number 10 Downing Street and met cross-party MPs at the House of Commons to explain how Auditory Verbal therapy transformed his life allowing him to attend mainstream school and enjoy all the other opportunities hearing children of his age can.
He also met with Malala Yousafzai, activist, UN Messenger of Peace and the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year and shared his story and work advocating for other children and young people with hearing loss. His campaigning work is in addition to more than £12,000 raised by his family, friends and school to support more deaf children like him learn to listen and speak with Auditory Verbal therapy.
Orson from Hertfordshire, was born three-months prematurely and after spending 61 days in intensive and neo-natal care his parents felt they had gone through every emotion possible. They were then told their son had failed his newborn hearing screening and diagnosed as deaf. At 18 months his hearing aids were fitted and his family vowed he would be able to do everything he wanted to. They took the decision to support him to learn to listen and talk and the family joined AVUK’s programme of Auditory Verbal therapy when Orson was two years old. At four and a half he graduated with spoken language a year ahead of typical child of his age.
Orson’s Mum Avril explained: ‘It is amazing Orson has been highly commended in these awards, especially with so many other amazing finalists, and to be challenging perceptions about what deaf children can achieve. We know Orson is one of the lucky ones to have had access to Auditory Verbal therapy, which has allowed him to do everything his hearing friends can. This award certainly does not mean the work is done – there still needs to be a commitment from the Government to fund Auditory Verbal therapy so that every family with a young deaf child has the opportunity to access this specialist therapy and have the same opportunities that Orson has.’
Around 80% of deaf children (including those with additional needs) who spend at least two years on an Auditory Verbal therapy programme achieve spoken language skills on a par with hearing children and the majority attend mainstream school.
AVUK Chief Executive Anita Grover said: ‘We are delighted that the wonderful work and dedication of Orson and his family to support more deaf babies and children have access to early and effective support has been recognised by The Children and Young People Now Awards. We are so proud of you Orson!
‘With many deaf children currently falling behind their hearing peers and at high risk of social exclusion, bullying, poor mental health and lower employment prospects, there has never been a more important time for the Government to invest in effective and early support to tackle the root cause of disadvantage. Early support is critically important whether a family wishes to use sign language, spoken language or both. Auditory Verbal therapy should be available for those families who want their children to learn to talk through publicly funded services.’
The #HearUsNow campaign is calling for the investment to train a small proportion of the current public sector workforce already working with deaf children to embed 300 specialist Auditory Verbal Therapists in local services, so every deaf child under five in the UK has the opportunity to access an Auditory Verbal therapy programme free of charge close to their home. There are currently only 30 certified Auditory Verbal Therapists in the UK, meaning inequality of access and a ‘postcode lottery’ of provision.
An investment of just over £2 million a year for the next decade will not only transform services for deaf children but will also unlock £152 million of economic benefits, rising to £11.7 billion over 50 years through improved quality of live and savings for the NHS, social services, mental health support services, employment services and more.
The UK has one of the best Newborn Hearing Screening Programmes in the world which enables early identification of hearing loss and access to state-of-the-art hearing technology, like hearing aids and cochlear implants, on the NHS. But deaf children still face a lifetime of disadvantage without access to early and effective support. Early support is critically important whether a family wishes to use sign language, spoken language or both.
For more information visit www.avuk.org.