Deaf Tottenham four-year-old challenging perceptions on first days at school – days her Mum thought she’d never see


Starting primary school is a huge milestone for both parents and children but when you had wondered whether your deaf child would ever laugh this day holds even more significance.

Four-year-old Ariella Batchelor is the youngest of three girls and her hearing loss was picked up at her newborn hearing screening. At eight weeks old Ariella was fitted with beautiful pink hearing aids. Although Mum Sabrina said the diagnosis was not a shock as she felt something was different with her third daughter, she did have concerns about the future.

She said: “I worried whether she would meet all the childhood milestones, would she even laugh if she couldn’t hear laughter?”

After two and a half years on the specialist family centred Auditory Verbal UK programme Ariella has graduated with her language at age-appropriate levels for listening and understanding and progressing rapidly for speech. She is now busily getting ready to start school with her older sisters.

“Ariella is over the moon to be joining her sisters at their local mainstream primary school a decision which my husband and I deliberated over since her deafness was diagnosed. Her language is rapidly progressing as is her confidence and I now feel confident as he feels excited about her start at school,” explained Sabrina.

Auditory Verbal UK is the only charity in the UK offering the auditory verbal therapy programme supporting deaf babies and children to listen, speak and learn and have an equal start in life. Eighty percent of children who spend two or more years on the AVUK programme graduate with age-appropriate speech and language and many like Ariella attend mainstream school.

The charity is asking for more investment to avoid a neurological emergency and ensure that all of the 7,200 deaf children under five in the UK have the opportunity to access an auditory verbal therapy programme close to their home.

AVUK Chief Executive Anita Grover said: “We cannot afford to let deaf children be left behind. A recent YouGov survey revealed only 37% of adults believe a child born profoundly deaf can learn to speak as well as a hearing child*. All deaf children can and should have the same opportunities in life as their hearing peers and achieve their potential. The majority of children who attend our programme for two or more years have speech and language skills equivalent to hearing peers. But far too many families are unable to access such support and our ambition is for all families of deaf children who want their child to learn to listen and talk, to be able to access an auditory verbal programme. To achieve this we are calling on the Government to make the necessary investment in the training of 300 specialist therapists across the UK, giving many more children an equal start at school”

Ariella was enrolled on the AVUK progamme after Sabrina became increasingly concerned about her lack of baby babble and by the end of her first session Ariella had said her first word “up”!

Sabrina said: “The next day Ariella imitated me when I chatting to her about animals at home. This was the magical moment I had been waiting for. The sessions that followed saw Ariella adding more and more to her vocabulary but most importantly they were equipping my husband and I with various strategies and tools to help Ariella’s listening and language skills emerge. We were able to see Ariella’s personality shine even more and her understanding and listening grew.
“Her language has taken a little longer but at every hurdle, AVUK have helped dissect the problem and formulate a plan to help the development. AVUK have kept me sane and they are always so positive, in my bleak moments they really have turned on a light. I have never had an issue with Ariella’s language that they have not been able to help with. “
AVUK has bases in London and Oxfordshire and specially trained Auditory Verbal therapists use play-based parent coaching techniques to enable families to turn everyday activities into ways to improve their child’s communication skills.

Support continued throughout the pandemic through online sessions and families continue to be supported now through a mixture of face-to-face and online sessions taking every personal circumstance into account.