'You Have to Think outside the Box with Deaf Children' Deafness Affects More Than 2,000 Children in Wales. Julia McWatt Spoke to One Mother about Her Experience of Bringing Up a Child with Impaired Hearing

Article excerpt

SINCE having her son Ioan nearly five years ago, Sasha Evans' life has changed in more ways than she ever expected. Only a few weeks after Ioan was born Sasha was told that routine tests had revealed his hearing was severely impaired. Since then, Sasha, 40, from Rumney, Cardiff, has taken examinations in sign language and given up her previous job working in post-16 education to work with deaf children in schools in Cardiff.

The mother of two also found that Ioan's deafness posed a number of challenges in his upbringing that she had not anticipated.

She said: "We knew from the start about his hearing as he had all the screening. I had a C-Section a little bit earlier than expected, so he had a lot of tests and he failed the first few. He had quite a lot of fluid in the ears and at around six weeks old we were told that he had moderate hearing loss. That was a massive shock for us.

"He had a hearing aid put in at around six to eight weeks, so it was very early on. We felt that we wanted him to have a full spectrum of sound if possible and that's what the hearing aids did. It gave him the hearing level of a normal-hearing child.

"The difficulty of that when Ioan was a baby was that I was breastfeeding and the hearing aid would fall off up to 40 or 50 times a day.

"Then, when he started teething he would chew it. I was never allowed to leave him alone as a hearing aid is in three parts and was a huge choking hazard.

"With a normal-hearing child you might be able to look away while you hang out the washing for instance but I could never do that with Ioan. This then made him very clingy. When he was two he wanted to go to playgroup and the separation was really hard for him as he was so used to being around us all of the time."

Although the hearing aid gave Ioan his hearing back to a huge extent, the family were hit by more bad news in 2009 when Ioan was two.

Sasha said: "About two years ago we noticed there was a slump in his hearing and we did not know why that was. His hearing got a lot worse and he ended up going under general anaesthetic to remove some of the wax and he was really upset by it.

"His hearing had deteriorated generally and had become classed as moderate, bordering on severe at a higher frequency. It was a big loss for him and for us as parents.

"Without his hearing aid he could hardly hear anything and when he was sleeping you could not comfort him as you would a normal-hearing child. You had to shout at him to get through.

"Bringing up Ioan is very different from bringing up a normal-hearing child. It can very frustrating at times. The baby and toddler stages were very hard. The hearing aids just came out all of the time. Then there were all the appointments at the hospital.

"At first we needed to do speech and language therapy and his skills were tested to see how he was progressing. We had a lot of that before he went to school as we wanted him to go to a mainstream school. He has hearing impaired sessions every six weeks, he is on school action plus and he also has a special educational needs coordinator to make sure he is achieving things that he should be achieving for his age.

"At first he struggled with cognitive things and I'm not sure if it was his hearing which caused that. …