A baby lying on the floor with an hearing implant.

When Leo was born deaf, it was the start of big changes in our lives

Leo was born deaf. In this blog his mother, Keighley, shares how the right support is so important to parents of disabled children to ensure their children get the best start in life.

From the moment Leo’s test came back with no response, support started that day.

It took two to four weeks before Leo was officially diagnosed as being deaf.

Considering I am profoundly deaf, you would think I would have had at least thought about the possibility of my children being born deaf. I had grown up believing my deafness was caused by childhood illness.

Leo was born deaf. From the moment the lady told us that Leo’s new born screening hearing test had come back with no response, support started that day. We were given phone numbers for support lines, direct numbers to them and leaflets explaining the next steps. Along with the reassurance that a Teacher of the Deaf (TOD) would be in touch soon to arrange a home visit. I remember thinking how stupid! He is only four weeks old, why does he need a TOD? How wrong was I?

Three ladies have supported us and helped make Leo the person he is

As well as the TOD support we have a family support worker who’s been with us since Leo was six months old.  The third person is Leo’s speech and language lady therapist who again has been involved since Leo was six months old.

Our TOD is the person we turn to when we have question’s no matter how silly they may seem. She has been there to give recommendations on simple things.  Like toys to help support Leo’s listening skills.  To celebrate all Leo’s achievements which might seem silly to other people, but she knows how important they are to us.

Our family support worker has become part of the family.  In the early days she was at our house weekly.  Supporting Leo with his listening and waiting skills he needed to complete a hearing test.  Without these skills Leo would have had to undergo testing while sedated which carries its own risk. Leo will quite happily sit and undertake testing using all the skills he has learnt.

When Leo was about two years old, his speech and language therapist observed him from a distance, getting ready to step in when she felt was needed.  Working with Leo to get him ready for when he needed his implants.

These three ladies have supported us and helped make Leo the person he is. Without them Leo wouldn’t be the confident chatty little boy he is today.  Of course, there are many more people involved in his care.

Attending that first group was a turning point for me and has changed our life.

This journey has changed me, its broken me at times emotionally and physically.  Without the support of the people mentioned I don’t think I would be where I am today which would have affected Leo and his progress.

As well as teaching Leo important skills, my concerns and worries plus my hopes and dreams for my children are listened to.

When I was nervous to attend a playgroup for deaf children for the first time, I was offered support by someone coming along with me without me having to ask. I know if I didn’t have her there that day I would have not gone.

That first group was a turning point for me and has changed our life. We have met new friends, started learning British Sign Language, and got involved in other support groups.

I have now come to terms with my new identity.  I am Keighley. I’m deaf and proud. My son will grow up never questioning his identity.

If we didn’t have the support, Leo would have started falling behind without a doubt

Writing this, I have been trying to think how we would have coped if we didn’t have the support. I truly believe we wouldn’t be informed and confident to attend meetings and say what needs to be said rather than allow people who don’t know Leo tell us what is best for him.

Support workers have listened and answered the same questions 101 times about Leo’s schooling. Stuff that we have understood at appointments is explained in simpler terms. Different people involved in Leo’s care have been brought together to make sure everyone was on the same page.

I have been given the confidence to remove Leo from the nursery he was attending after I was having doubts about Leo’s needs not being meet.  I’ve had support in attending nursery meetings and help finding a new nursery.

These examples don’t even scratch the surface of the times support has been there to help.  Leo wouldn’t be getting any of the support he gets from both of his nurseries and he would have started falling behind without a doubt.

Leo surprisingly hasn’t fallen behind in any other areas of developments

Today Leo is coming up to a year of having implants.  He wears his processors all day long and can tell us when they are not working.  His speech is developing so fast thanks to his Speech and Language Therapy and all the support he had leading up to and after his implants.

Two smiling young boys and a man playing the snow

He attends two different nurseries, one local to us. He has the best support from his Key Worker, the TOD and Family Support Worker.  They all work together to allow Leo to assess sound. He will start attending school in September which has a hearing-impaired unit. His Education Health Care Plan is being prepared and, thanks to everyone’s hard work, we have plenty of evidence for the support Leo will need in school.

Leo surprisingly hasn’t fallen behind in any other areas of developments which sadly does happen when there is no support.  To think what would happen if we were without our support workers fills me with fear.

I was shocked and horrified when I found out that we are in a minority.  Most families don’t get this support because of cuts to funding!  I can truly say the support we have received has been fantastic.

41 percent of families aren’t offered emotional support during their child’s diagnosis and become increasingly isolated. Donate today to help us provide vital services and support for families that need it most.

Half of disabled people feel excluded from society. Join our campaign to end this inequality and become a #DisabilityGamechanger

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