30 years ago…In March 1989, we had already been living in Gaborone in Botswana 7 months, and still totally unaware Hughan couldn’t hear us. He was a happy, content baby and seldom cried.
Life in Gaborone was very different from living in Harare, Zimbabwe. The weather was much hotter, so all the houses and shops were air-conditioned.
Our home in Harare had a walled garden, on nearly and acre of ground, and had its own swimming pool. In Gaborone we lived in a place called ‘Bemcoville’, which was an expatriate compound where the employers of Bemco, Willem’s new company, lived.
Bemcoville was a complex of small semi-detached homes, situated on a large piece of ground with a high wall around it. There was a security guard at the entrance, where you had to give your identity and reason for entering the complex.
All the residence were young families and we each had our own small garden. Within the complex there was a playground, swimming pool and tennis court, so there was always someone about and a great way of meeting people and make friends.
We had all settled in very quickly and feeling quite at home.
To work in Gaborone you had to have a work permit, so most of the Mums stayed at home with the children. This was great, as we used to all meet up for tea parties, playgroups and lots more excuses for get-togethers.
Willem had just received a promotion, so we would soon be moving into a house closer to Gaborone city centre.
30 years ago…In March 1989 we were totally unaware that our youngest son Hughan was profoundly deaf and unable to hear us. He was a happy content baby.
We have been on an incredible journey with him, teaching him his lip-reading and communication skills, where he has overcome his challenges and can even hold a conversation on a phone.
Luckily we kept a ‘Diary’ from February 1990 which I will be sharing with you.
At the time we were living in Gaborone in Botswana and it was exciting time for us, as we had recently moved from Zimbabwe where our two sons, Jamie and Hughan, were born. Hughan was already 7 months old and growing fast.
My husband, Willem, had just started an ex-patriot contract at Kalahari Ford and we were enjoying our new life in Gabs.This was quite a critical move for us at the time, as it meant we were in a better financial position, so I didn’t have to work and could spend quality time at home with our children.
Gaborone is situated on the edge of the Kalahari desert. We had arrived at the beginning of the hot summer with scorching heat. The city had just got its first set of traffic lights and often you would be giving way to donkeys, chickens, goats, cattle and children.
In Gaborone there were no Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists (ENT) or Paediatricians for the children’s check ups, so we had to travel through to Johannesburg in South Africa (four hours away) for these appointments. Hearing tests were also not available yet for children at birth.
At the time there was no technology to find information, there were no home computers with internet and Google, and mobile phones hadn’t been invented yet.
We’ve removed all of Hughan’s diary entries that we ran in 2013, written in the early nineties, because we’ve updated the website and we’re going to be running them again in real time starting in Jan 2020; this time 30 years on from the event.
Follow along this year, as we discover Hughan’s deafness 30 years ago and are told he’d never learn to hear or speak and would have to sign. Hughan is profoundly deaf, but luckily after a chance encounter on a train heading from London to Cornwall in 1989 we met Dr Elaine Saunders (who is an internationally recognised hearing scientist and audiologist) who told us about the pioneering work being done on the cochlear implant. Finding information to deal with his deafness was challenging at the time, as there were no home computers with internet and google and mobile phones hadn’t been invented yet. At the time we were living in Gaborone in Botswana, where there were no Specialists or deaf community to get help and support from. Through our searching, we found and went to the Carel Du Toit Center in Cape Town, where Hughan followed the speech only program from 1990, having to travel to the Centre every 3 months for lessons. Hughan was the 10th child (34th person) to receive his cochlear implant at the age of 3 and a half.
February 1990 is when the real work began and our ‘Diary’ started. This is when we were taught the top tips and embraced a new way to communicate with Hughan. It was only after reading through my diary notes that I realised what it was that gave us so much success with Hughan; who can now hold a conversation on a phone.
I’ve decided to share the top tips we were taught, as these have proved to be life changing for Hughan. I would encourage you to embrace them and also start your own diary to track your child’s progress. In years to come you will have them as a record of what you did . It is also a way of encouraging yourself to do activities each day, which will enable you to expand your child’s understanding of the language. Remember to ‘keep it simple’ and grow their language slowly.
In the mean time I’m also writing a book which I will be publishing in the near future. If you follow us on facebook and like our posts then you’re going to love what we’re going to be doing for parents with deaf children..