A charity working to give deaf children and babies the opportunity to listen and speak as equals alongside their hearing peers has received funding for therapy sessions to keep up with demand in London.

Ernie and his parents John and Chrissi joined AVUK’s programme when he was seven months old. He is now 12 and thriving at mainstream school. The grant means more children like Ernie will have the opportunity to listen and speak like their hearing peers, and have an equal start at school.

Auditory Verbal UK, based in Southwark, has received £135,000 of funding from City Bridge Trust, the City Corporation’s charitable funder, to increase the provision of Auditory Verbal therapy (AVT) for deaf children in the capital.

The therapy helps children develop listening and spoken language skills. By working with preschool children, the charity aims to ensure they have an equal start at school.

The funding will allow the charity to offer AVT to more deaf children in the capital whose families may otherwise have missed out due to the cost of treatment. Auditory Verbal UK’s bursary scheme aims to make therapy affordable to all families of deaf children regardless of their financial situation.

AVT involves teaching deaf children, who use hearing aids and cochlear implants, to listen and speak. The charity believes that, without effective support, deaf children acquire language skills at a much slower rate than their hearing peers. This can mean starting primary school with language skills of a much younger peer, and resulting in lower grades, reduced employment prospects, isolation and poor mental health.

Auditory Verbal UK is currently working to support 50 families in London to learn the AV skills needed to assist their children. The therapy seeks to increase the children’s social confidence and independence.

Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust committee, said:

“It is clear that children are making great progress in their speech and listening using interventions such as AVT.

“We want deaf children to have the best learning and educational experience possible to help them progress in their future and careers. With so many families coming to Auditory Verbal UK for support, it’s evident this work is playing a key part in children’s development.

“City Bridge Trust is committed to tackling disadvantage and inequality in London and will continue to support charities making London a fairer and better place to live.”

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Emma Johnson, Head of Fundraising at AVUK, said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to have received the grant from City Bridge Trust. As a small charity, these grants mean the world to us and allow us to reach more deaf children across London, giving them the opportunity to get an equal start at school.”

City Bridge Trust is the funding arm of the City of London Corporation’s charity, Bridge House Estates. It is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of £20 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital.

The Trust has awarded around 8,000 grants totalling over £400 million since it first began in 1995. It helps achieve the City Corporation’s aim of changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

 

Case Study: Ernie

Ernie and his parents John and Chrissi joined AVUK’s programme when he was seven months old. He is now 12 and thriving at mainstream school.

The grant means more children like Ernie will have the opportunity to listen and speak like their hearing peers, and have an equal start at school:

Ernie’s story written by his mum Chrissi:

Ernie was diagnosed at 11 weeks and aided at 12 weeks with profound loss in his left ear and severe to profound in his right ear. As you can imagine, that was devastating at the time and we thought that Ernie would never be able to talk. We didn’t know anyone who was deaf or had deaf children and at the time we didn’t know what support was out there.

It took a few weeks to start getting our heads around everything. As soon as Ernie was diagnosed, we had a teacher of the deaf come to the house to show us how to communicate with Ernie visually. I felt as if she was connecting with my new son more than I was.

We heard about AV and we were very interested to go and visit Auditory Verbal UK, by this point Ernie was seven months old.

On our first visit we met the lovely founder of AVUK Jacqueline Stokes. I remember very well her asking us what we wanted for Ernie and what our aspirations were for him. I remember wanting to say “to speak and be understood” but we believed this was out of our reach.

During our first session, Jacqueline took Ernie and us into a room and did some therapy with a toy, saying the words “around and around”. Ernie didn’t take his eyes off the toy and Jacqueline encouraged him to say the words. To our surprise, he did. They were his first clear words, “around and around”.

Finding the money and the childcare for my other boy and travelling to AVUK’s offices in Bicester, Oxfordshire, was a worry for us until they told us about the bursary scheme which was an amazing help.

From the therapy to preparing for Ernie’s Cochlear Implant assessment, the help we had from AVUK staff was amazing. It’s the support they give you to be able to support your deaf child, you think you’re going for the therapy but you come away with so much more. The CDs we were given of our sessions were amazing as it kept my husband up to date as the therapy became a way of life for us.

Ernie became an amazing listener. People used to comment on how well he listened.

Now, people often don’t realise Ernie is deaf until they notice his implant because he speaks and listens so well. There is no way that it would be so good without the amazing support we had from the first visit. Ernie is now 12 and thriving at school.

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