Deaf Stonehouse boy speaks up at House of Commons
Press release issued by Auditory Verbal UK
Monday 11 June
An 11-year-old from Stonehouse gave a speech at a House of Commons event on Wednesday organised by the charity that taught him to speak.
Charlie Denton took to the stage at the Power of Speech, which is held biennially by Auditory Verbal UK to challenge perceptions of what deaf children can achieve and showcase the communication skills of young people who have graduated from its early intervention programme.
In front of an audience of more than 100 MPs and professionals working in the deaf sector, Charlie gave a talk on his love of music. He was due to perform the violin but wasn’t able to due to breaking his arm.
MP for Stroud, David Drew attended the event and commented:
“It was a great pleasure to meet Charlie and his family. I’m so impressed that he has overcome his disability to become such a talented musician, and what a smashing young man he has become.”
Charlie was among ten deaf children from around the country who took part in the event, giving speeches about their experience of deafness or talking about their passions.
At three-and-a-half years old Charlie was diagnosed with Usher’s syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes progressive hearing and sight loss. He started Auditory Verbal UK programme that year and received bilateral cochlear implants six months later. The implants give users access to sound and Auditory Verbal therapy trains the brain to understand the sound. He now listens and speaks as well as other children his age.
As well as the violin, music-loving Charlie plays the guitar, piano and drums. Last summer, he was selected to take part in the Beats of Cochlear Music Festival in Warsaw, Poland, performing on both violin and piano. Charlie also loves sport and is training with the GB Deaf Tennis Squad and is on the FA talent pathway for Disability Football.
Charlie said: “I was excited and proud to be a part of the Power of Speech. I was a little bit nervous but most of all happy to be there and help more people understand why Auditory Verbal therapy is so important. It has changed my life and meant that being deaf does not stop me from doing the things I love – music and sport.”
Auditory Verbal therapy concentrates on developing spoken language through listening. By getting sound to the brain through cochlear implants or hearing aids, the approach helps the child’s brain to develop listening rather than relying solely or partly on visual cues.
The Power of Speech event was used to announce the results of research paper ‘Raising the bar for deaf children with additional needs: A study of spoken language outcomes for children attending Auditory Verbal UK from 2007-2017’, which analysed the progress of 129 of children who spent two years or more on the charity’s programme.
The study showed 97% of deaf children with no additional needs achieved spoken language skills on a par with hearing children their age, as did half of children with additional needs. It is Auditory Verbal UK’s strongest evidence yet that spoken language is a realistic goal for deaf children – including those with additional needs.
Anita Grover, Chief Executive of Auditory Verbal UK, said: “In the UK, we have a world-class Newborn Hearing Screening Programme and access to state of the art hearing technology. Yet the gap between deaf children’s achievements and those of their hearing peers is widening.
“This study highlights the need to raise the bar for all deaf children and reinforces the value of investing in support during the vital development years.
“The children who took part in the Power of Speech are proof that being deaf should not hold you back in life.”
Auditory Verbal therapy is a mainstream approach in North America and Australasia, but in the UK only 5% of deaf children currently have access to it. Auditory Verbal UK provides a programme for families across the UK from its two centres in London and Oxfordshire and is working to increase the number of specialist therapists in the NHS and local services so that families have an opportunity to access a programme close to where they live.