Oct 2018 Evening Standard
These inspirational children defied the odds by learning how to speak after being diagnosed as profoundly deaf when they were just a few weeks old. Four-year-old Mia Basma-Saffiedine, from Barnet, and eight-year-old Hope Dennis, from Primrose Hill, were both diagnosed as deaf when they were less than a month old. Hope, who in 2011 became one of the youngest babies to undergo bilateral cochlear implant surgery at just nine months old, was diagnosed three weeks after her birth. Now eight years old, Hope has defied the odds by learning how to speak. In 2016, she even told her story to an audience of MPs, experts in hearing and language and sports stars in Westminster. Mum Becky said: “We are unbelievably proud of all that she continues to achieve and the way she shatters stereotypes about the life a deaf child can lead with the right support and intervention.”
Hope Dennis and her sister
Four-year-old Mia was also diagnosed at just three weeks old. Her mum Rayan, who is also deaf, desperately sought out options to give her daughter the experiences she had missed out on. Mia was fitted with cochlear implants at 11 months old and was “switched on” just before her first birthday – a month after her devoted mum was fitted with implants herself. Ms Basma-Saffiedine said: “I feel so fortunate to be able to give my daughter this crucial opportunity to train her mind to listen in such a natural, fun and creative way. She just continues to amaze us every day,” she added.
Mia Basma-Saffiedine with mum Rayan
Along with Kurran Doal, 15, from Chigwell, who underwent three life-saving operations after being born prematurely and diagnosed deaf, the children will soon share their stories in a TV appeal.
The appeal will support Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK), the charity which helped them speak, which works with pre-school-aged deaf children with hearing aids or cochlear implants. AVUK teaches children to listen and speak without the need to rely on sign language or lip reading. Kurran Doal was diagnosed as profoundly deaf after being born premature by two months (AVUK)
Hope’s mum Ms Dennis said the charity is an “invaluable piece of the jigsaw puzzle that has taken Hope from a profoundly deaf baby facing a world of silence to a happy”. She now says Hope is a “healthy child whose life is filled with sound and conversation.” AVUK’s chief executive Anita Grover said: “We are absolutely delighted that AVUK will feature in the BBC Lifeline appeal.
"We hope that this will encourage readers to support our appeal so that more deaf children have the opportunity to access our family programme across the UK.”
Auditory Verbal therapy concentrates on developing spoken language through listening.
The approach helps the child’s brain to develop listening rather than relying solely or partly on visual cues and is most effective in the first three-and-a-half years of a child’s life. DJ Sara Cox, who will host the appeal, said: “Working with AVUK really highlighted what deaf children can do when they have the support that they need in the first few years of their lives. "Their opportunities are transformed. Working in an industry where listening and speaking are crucial to what I do, I can’t imagine the difficulty parents face being told their baby is deaf. “But, with crucial support from charities like AVUK, families of deaf children really can see them reach their full potential.”