Archive Monthly Archives: April 2019

Like Winning the Lottery

Welcome to the new home page of Speech for Deaf Children. The website has just been updated from it’s first version that was created back in 2013. I’m hoping this website will give me a platform to share the valuable information that I have, with parents of deaf children around the world.

You may have seen our Facebook page and that is a tool that I use to communicate with parents around the world. At the time of writing this the Facebook page has just under 50,000 people on it.

We would love you to 'like' our page, if you've not already, by clicking the button below, and follow us to help other parents with deaf children around the world.

Why the relaunch of the website?

My passion is to help other parents with deaf children through my experience, and by updating our original website, from 2013 to this one, we are hoping to improve your access to our information.

In 2008, when I turned 50, I wanted to write down what we had done to help Hughan, in case another member of our family has a deaf child in the future. I started reading Hughan’s Diaries from 1990 and soon realised there was a lot of information there, so started writing a book. In 2011, while tidying up, I came across all our records dating back to 1989, before Hughan was diagnosed profoundly deaf. Reading through these notes and entries made me remember how desperate I felt back then in Gaborone, Botswana. There were no home computers with internet, no google to find information, mobile phones hadn't been invented yet, so it was very difficult to find information about deafness and communicate with others. There were also no Specialist doctors or Pediatricians' for baby check ups and no deaf community to get support and advice where we were living. How was Hughan ever going to learn to communicate? Would he be able to go to school one day? Would he ever be able to leave home? At the time I thought 'no' to all of these.

When Hughan was 9 months old we became aware he couldn't hear us, but it took 5 agonizing months before he was diagnosed profoundly deaf, at 14 months old, and received his first powerful hearing aids. We were told by one Specialist in South Africa that our only option was to teach him sign language, which we found out isn't a universal language, and varies from place to place around the world; if we taught Hughan sign language in Southern Africa, he would be solely reliant on us, as his parents, for guidance if we ever went to live anywhere else. What made it even more challenging was that sign language also varies from town to town.  

In December 1989, searching for answers, we flew from Botswana to England to see Specialist in Harley Street, London. We wanted to find out if South Africa and England had a similar approach to deafness, which they did and signing was still our only option.

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(This is a picture of my Dad with Hughan on his lap and his brother Jamie. We were on the train, taking Hughan to his first appointment in Harley Street.)

Due to a chance encounter with Dr Elaine Saunders on another trip to Harley Street, sitting on the train between London Paddington Station and Cornwall, we found out about the pioneering work being done on the cochlear implant in Australia. Elaine had just flown in from Australia and was on her way to visit family in Devon when she told us. 'This was just like winning the lottery.'

Back home in Botswana luckily one evening we watched a documentary on Helen Keller. We hadn’t ever heard of her before, but as we watched it I realised that if this lady, who was deaf and blind had achieved so much during her life, then so could our son. It also made me realise that teaching Hughan his communication skills was going to take lots of effort.

From there we found out about the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, where we chose to follow their program and incredibly they had already implanted their first child with the cochlear implant device from Australia. Hughan was the 10th child to receive the implant at the age of 3 and a half in 1992, this was before England started implanting children.

Choosing a program we believed in and putting 100% effort into what we were taught, has paid off. It's the little thing we did every day over a long period of time, that has added up to a huge amount. It's the consistent, persistent effort and a positive attitude we were encouraged to have, that helped. Also never giving up.

Just imagine, if it wasn’t for that chance encounter with Dr Elaine Saunders on that train in 1989, Hughan would now be living in a silent world and communicating through sign language.

Elaine Saunders, the lady who we met on the train in 1989, is now an internationally recognized hearing scientist, audiologist and entrepreneur. We bumped into her just after our final hopes of our son having some sort of a “normal” life had been severed by the last doctors we’d planned on seeing in the UK; as we were heading home to my Dad’s before heading back to Botswana in defeat!

I don’t think there’s a mathematician in the world who could calculate the odds of that encounter, but it was that ‘fork in the road’ moment that set us off on our journey.

The choices we've made and the places we've lived, since finding out Hughan was profoundly deaf, have been life changing for him. I’m writing a book about our amazing story. Of how we moved from Zimbabwe to Botswana to Cape town then back to Zimbabwe before finally moving to England and how Hughan learnt to hear at the age of nearly 4 and therefore only learning how to speak at the age of nearly 4 to being able to hold a conversation on the phone.

I’d really appreciate your feedback on my book. It’s not finished yet but will be in the next year or so. I have got a small sample that I’ve written at this point and I am looking for feedback so if you would like to help me with my book before its published then put your name and email in the form below and I’ll be in touch.

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(This picture was taken in 2015 of Hughan introducing a speaker at a conference.)



Enter your details into the form below and I'll send it over.

The Roads in Gaborone

30 years ago in 1989…Driving on the roads in Gaborone was a completely different experience to what we were used to in Zimbabwe.

All of the roads were linked with round abouts ( we used to call these “circles”). We soon realised that over the weekends drunken drivers used to end up in the middle of them. Some of the roads were still dirt and very dusty. Often you would be driving along and have to give way to goats, chickens, cattle, donkeys and kids!

Driving in to most of the Hotels, in the city, you would have to go over a cattle grid. These were there to stop cattle and donkeys roaming onto the hotel grounds and eating the lush grass that had been watered.

The first set of traffic lights (robots) had just been put in. These were also proving to be very challenging with the drivers.

Because of the layout of all of the roads it was quite easy to feel a bit lost, but if you kept going you usually ended up recognising where you were.

Jamie had started a play group and was making lots of new friends. I also got to meet all the Mums and we were all having a great time.

Hughan was growing quickly. He was always very content and enjoying life. We were still unaware he couldn’t hear us.

An excruciating cry

30 years ago...our youngest son Hughan was usually a happy, content, babbling baby and seemed to be responding to us when we spoke. We were totally unaware he might not be hearing us at this stage.

One afternoon I had been at home with both of the boys. Hughan became quite restless and seemed to have flushed cheeks. I thought he was probably teething so I gave him some Calpol (a liquid form of paracetamol), which usually helped.

Within a short time he became more and more restless and all of a sudden had an excruciating cry, almost frantic. It was as if something was pinching him. I could not find anything wrong with him and felt totally helpless and finding it hard to calm him in any way.

I phoned our doctors surgery in Gaborone and they had already closed for the day. I managed to get through to my doctor at her home and she was happy for me to take Hughan to see her.

Hughan had become exhausted from crying and had started to calm down. The Doctor gave him a complete check over. He had a high temperature, but other than that she could not find anything specifically wrong with him. I was to go back home and see the doctor the following day if he continued to cry and be restless.

When we got back home Hughan fell asleep from exhaustion and slept soundly over night. The following day he seemed much happier and there was no need for me to go back and see the doctor.

We never found out what caused Hughan to have such an excruciating cry that day, or whether this might have contributed towards his hearing loss that was eventually diagnosed months later.