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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.

Relaunch of Hughan’s Diary – Over 30 Years On

Hi everyone,

We decided to updated and relaunch our website, so apologies for the removal of our original entries of Hughan’s Diary notes from 2013.

When we discovered our son Hughan’s deafness, in 1989 when he was 14 months old, we were told by one Specialist that he would never learn to hear or speak and would have to learn sign language to communicate; as his hearing loss was so profound and the most powerful hearing aids wouldn’t help him to hear. 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. Since then, we feel truly blessed by the journey we have been on to help him with his hearing and communication skills as he is now even able to hold a conversation on a phone, without using his lip-reading skills. Luckily, we had a chance encounter on a train heading from London to Cornwall in 1989 with 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. 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..