Nov 2018 Somerset Live
When their newborn twins were diagnosed as profoundly deaf, a Bath couple doubted whether they would ever hear their sons talk at all - let alone speak two languages fluently. Twins Zack and Dylan were born in 2011 in New York and just days later failed their newborn hearing tests. It came as a huge shock to mum Deborah Pezzuto and her husband Alessandro. Mrs Pezzuto said: "We could not believe this could have happened to us. “Being a hearing family, we did not know sign language, we did not know what to expect and being an Italian family living abroad and we questioned whether Zack and Dylan would be able to learn more than one language. "We were concerned that exposing them to two languages would be too much for them and put them under unnecessary pressure.”
Medics in New York told the parents that cochlear implant surgery in the first six months of their lives combined with auditory verbal therapy could give Zack and Dylan the opportunity to learn to listen and speak. Two years later the family moved to the UK after hearing they could continue therapy with charity Auditory Verbal UK. It was at the charity’s offices in Bicester, Oxfordshire, that Deborah and Alessandro heard their son’s first words.
The mother, who runs a life-coaching business, recalled: “During a challenge session, our therapist had been trying to get the boys to say ‘dog’ and had ended up saying, ‘well, maybe next time I will bring a different type of [toy] dog, you don’t seem to like this one.’ “But, as we were leaving, I turned to speak to the therapist and one of the twins said ‘dog’. It felt like a miracle. "They were around two years old and from there it really sped up. It was amazing.”
The family were also overjoyed when they were told by their therapist that their sons could learn more than one language. Mrs Pezzuto added: “We were told that AVT is about deaf children understanding sound rather than language so it did not matter if we were teaching them different languages if we were using the same techniques.”
Zack and Dylan are now thriving at Bathwick St Mary Primary School, but they have developed very different personalities. Both love to read, but Dylan prefers science and history books while Zack likes learning new jokes. The twins both play chess and a variety of sports. “Our therapist helped me to understand there are no limits for kids with CIs (cochlear implants), and no limits for bilingual cochlear implanted children either. "We are convinced every cochlear implanted child can be bilingual or even learn more languages comfortably,” Mrs Pezzuto said.