Joseph

My husband was amazing. I am sure he was also hurting beyond words but he took on everything and allowed me to feel the way that I needed to.

At 4 weeks we went back for a formal diagnosis and to discuss our options. We were told that Joseph could have a hearing aid for his right ear but nothing for his left as there is no residual hearing at all. Their advice was to learn sign language and that it would be unlikely he would speak. For a while I accepted this and refused the hearing aid thinking there was no point.

At 13 weeks old and speaking to lots of other parents of deaf children I made a decision. I decided that I accept my child is deaf but I would do anything to not allow him to be written off before his life even began and that he would only be raised orally the same as the whole family and that signing was something he could learn as an extra skill if he chose to. He was fitted with a hearing aid in his right ear to give him good access to sound as long as he doesn’t get a cold or anything to block up his ears.

I did anything I could to stimulate his hearing. We were having an extension built at the time and used to have the builders in hysterics with our Dolly Parton discos. I also started to research facilities which offer the oral approach for deaf children and found out about an organisation called The Elizabeth Foundation. There are only two sites in the UK. One is Portsmouth and the other Bradford so within a 40 minute drive.

At 5 months old he started attending 1-1 sessions twice a week. It was a big commitment but every minute was worth it as everything I learned I took home and introduced to everyone who was in contact with Joseph. He then progressed to a toddler session and eventually at 3 he went twice a week in their nursery until starting school aged 4. Every activity was designed to stimulate the children’s listening skills and therefore develop speech and language skills comparable to their hearing peers outside the foundation. Not to mention the family support you are offered to understand deafness and what that means for your child.

When he was 12 months old we had seen every specialist going about his hearing loss and the last avenue was genetic testing. Although there was no deafness in our families it was our last hope for answers. It came back that both I and my husband carry a gene and if both parents give it to the child then they will be deaf. Getting an answer and knowing no one was to blame was a great weight off me.

In 2009 the Bradford centre was under threat of closure due to lack of funding. At that time I felt the service was too valuable to the children who attended and decided to reach out to anyone in the public eye who had a connection to deafness. I never knew much about The Osmonds but one day I was at home with Joseph and watched a film called “Side by Side: The Osmonds Story”.  It was a lovely film and struck a chord so I decided to research them. I found out that Merrill Osmond had a deaf son and decided to write to him. I had written to more than 20 people and had no response or offer of help. Except one, from a certain Justin Osmond on behalf of his father Merrill.

Unfortunately, at the time there was no Hearing Fund UK and although Justin offered to come over we felt it wasn’t the right time and we couldn’t make best use of his generous offer.  However, Justin and I continued to email each other for a few months and he gave me a great insight into what my son could be feeling or going through.

As Joseph was growing up and getting more independent my husband and I felt confident enough to have another child and in August 2010 Edward was born. Joseph was overjoyed as he was now a big brother.

In September 2011 aged 4 Joseph started the same school as his older brother William. He had age appropriate speech and language skills and attended without any form of support. So, in June 2012 it was with a feeling of dread that I went to the school prize giving evening not expecting much and that Joseph may be disappointed. However, it was with tears in my eyes and a massive lump in my throat that I sat there and heard his name be called out as he had won the reception class prize for speaking French. My deaf baby – the one I was told might never speak winning prizes for a second language. Just like I couldn’t describe the terrible feelings when he was first diagnosed I also still cannot put into words the joy I felt hearing his name. I just said to myself “we proved them ALL wrong”.

2012 only got better when I got a call asking me if I would like to meet Merrill and Justin Osmond and that they were starting The Hearing Fund UK. I jumped at the chance as the more I had researched the more I realised just what helping deaf people, especially, children meant to them. Justin is the best role model a child could have but even more so a deaf child. Meeting Justin and attending the 2012 Gala was a wonderful experience for us and memories Joseph will cherish his whole life.

For me it is important to support The Hearing Fund UK as we are very lucky in the UK as we have the early diagnosis and children are given hearing aids and medical care free. However, there is not enough additional support for the families and the deaf children. Unfortunately, there is still a negative attitude to deafness and too much emphasis on what a deaf child cannot do!

I wish I could have seen the future back when we first got the diagnosis as I wouldn’t have been scared at all. My child runs, jumps, plays, laughs, shouts, screams and does everything all other children do. We still have days which are frustrating for both of us, but I couldn’t be prouder to be his mummy and I hope one day I can tell him how much we went through but I always believed in him. Every minute I invested in him he has paid me back a million times over.

As I am writing this Joseph will be 6 soon and is in year 1 at school. He has a reading age 18 months ahead of where he should be and has the highest reading level in his class. All of whom are fully hearing.

I will be honest there are days where I still think why me? But in a positive way why me? How could I be so lucky to have 3 beautiful sons? All of whom are intelligent, polite, caring and very boisterous but one of them just needs to wear a hearing aid.

It is my true belief that any deaf child can achieve whatever they want in life if given the right support in a positive way. That is why I am giving the Hearing Fund UK as much support as I can and was so pleased when I was asked to share my story for them and give my permission for it and accompanying photographs to be used by them in any way they need.