My Name is Katie and I am the mother of this beautiful little boy, Alvie. Last summer I Started the Campaign for parents and guardians of deaf children to have free and easy access to learn BSL. When Alvie was 7 weeks old, he was diagnosed with moderate high frequency hearing loss. 3 weeks later Alvie was fitted with his hearing aids.
One of the first questions I asked was if we needed to learn Sign language. We were advised we did not need to but focus on speech. This was said with a tone of reassurance. I accepted this with relief. I will always feel guilty for this.
I had been suffering with post natal depression. Often dwelling on all the negatives, consumed with fear and worry about Alvie’s future. It is such an overwhelming time. You have this little baby and instead of enjoying the sleepy sofa snuggles, you basically live at audiology and other appointments.
I naively assumed that hearing aids fixed hearing (not including for profound loss) much like glasses fix your sight. But the list of situations of when they aren’t effective swiftly followed his fitting. My poor baby boy was going to have a lifetime of situations where he would be isolated from basic communication. When we eventually realised there was no question, we needed to learn BSL, we were shocked at the costs involved and how difficult it is to access. In Cornwall you can learn levels 1 and 2 in just 2 colleges.
I was so shocked. I decided to write to my Local MP to highlight this issue. Also, I started a petition. This was with Change.org and surpassed 40,000 signatures. Unfortunately, the Government does not recognise Change.org petitions and I had to start from scratch with an official government one.
I have had several correspondence with the Department of Education. They have said they have no plans to introduce free BSL Courses. They insist that the DWP holds responsibility for this. However, they are the department that have responded officially to the petition. The DWP has responded to my plight informing me that the Education Department is responsible. I do not accept this. It worries me that the government doesn’t know who is responsible for the communication between deaf children and their families. It saddens me that they do not plan to address this or to even take responsibility.
I have been so fortunate that this picked up the attention of the British Deaf Association and the NDCS. They have been working with me since October last year to help push this campaign forward.
Parents should not need to justify wanting to communicate with your child. We shouldn’t have to battle. Deaf children have a right to communication. I have met so many adults whose parents were discouraged from learning BSL when they were diagnosed and throughout their childhood. They all express the isolation they felt growing up. Not being included. Exhausted trying to fit in to the hearing world. I refuse to accept this for my son. I refuse to accept that this is the way it is. That we, as a society, can’t do more to
prevent this for the future. Because we can, we can offer a language. We can let our children learn, be included. Why do we work so hard to ensure that deaf people can fit in the hearing world, even when it
is at their detriment. Why can’t there be both. If my son is ill, he doesn’t want to wear his hearing aids, if he is in the bath, he cannot wear his hearing aids, if we are at a soft play or restaurant he may miss what we are saying to him due to the noise. Being able to Sign to him in these situations is vital. I do not see it as an option to learn Sign. I see that my son needs to always be able to communicate with his mum, with his dad and brother. I cannot understand why parents need to justify this.
BSL is a recognised Language, legally, in our country. It can be accessible to learn, but not if you are someone who needs to learn it. Imagine if hearing children and parents didn’t have access to learn to
speak. It is unimaginable to think you would have to pay for this. Yet this is no different. Parents should be offered free BSL courses on point of diagnosis.
The petition is closed now but you can still help !
Please be part of a miracle and support Katie and all families experiencing this by writing to your Local MP today !, a template and further information has been provided on the below link.