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Anita Grover, Chief Executive at Auditory Verbal UK

Meet 11-year-old Louis from Cambridge. His parents were first told he had hearing loss at 18 months old. They wanted to do everything they could to ensure he had the same opportunities in life as hearing children. Keen for Louis to learn to listen and talk, they found out about Auditory Verbal therapy and enrolled on the specialist, family-centred programme. By the time Louis started school he had spoken language skills equivalent to his hearing friends and is thriving both in the classroom and beyond.

Louis recently meet Dame Rachel to share his story, his love of school and passion for coding! Louis is one of many children who are challenging perceptions of what deaf children can achieve when they have access to early and effective support to develop language and communication. Support in the early years is vital whether families wish to use spoken language, sign language or both.

In England deaf children currently face the prospect of lower academic achievement, lower employment prospects, and are at higher risk of poor mental health, bullying and social exclusion. Analysis by the National Deaf Children’s Society shows that in 2023 only 38% of deaf children in England completed their first year of school having achieved expected levels of development (early learning goals), compared with 66% of all children.

Misconception about what deaf children can achieve also remain with research we commissioned with YouGov last year finding that only 41% of adults in England believe it is possible for a child born profoundly deaf today to learn to speak as well as a child without hearing loss.

This is why we want everyone to know that when young deaf children and their families have access to effective, early support to develop language and communication, whether that be spoken language, sign language or both, deaf children can get an equal start at school and their opportunities are transformed.

For families who want their deaf child to learn to listen and speak, Auditory Verbal therapy is a robust, evidence-based, family-centred approach which is transforming opportunities. As Dame Rachel heard when she visited our centre in Bermondsey, London, our research, backed up by international evidence, shows that 80% of children who attend an Auditory Verbal therapy programme for at least two years achieve the same level of spoken language as their hearing peers. This rises to 97% of deaf children without additional needs. The majority are attaining education outcomes on par with their hearing friends. These deaf children are getting an equal start at school and the health and education benefits are lifelong.

But unfortunately, at present, only 10% of young deaf children, like Louis, who could benefit from Auditory Verbal therapy are currently able to access it due to the very limited number of certified Auditory Verbal Therapists in England.

These therapists are qualified teachers of the deaf, speech and language therapists or audiologists who have undergone a minimum of three years of additional post-graduate specialist training to become certified Listening and Spoken Language Specialist, Auditory Verbal Therapists. Analysis has shown that by training a small proportion of the current public sector workforce to embed 300 Auditory Verbal Therapists in the NHS and local services, we can enable all deaf children to have the opportunity to access Auditory Verbal therapy through existing public services and local offers. And we know this early support can deliver significant economic benefits through improved quality of life, employment prospects, lower costs of schooling and avoided injuries.

We need to be ambitious and together, we can raise expectations, outcomes, and opportunities for deaf children now and in the future.

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