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Each issue, a different professional shares their expert advice and gives information to help you support your child. This time Keith, a grandparent, shares his thoughts.

Grandfather Keith's face and shoulders

What does being a grandparent mean to you?

It has been our pleasure to give as much practical and emotional support as we can to my two profoundly deaf grandsons, Thomas (21) and James (18), and to my son and daughter-in-law. We were absolutely devastated when we first found out Thomas was deaf, we had so many questions and were so unsure of the future. But as they’ve grown, if it’s possible, I feel even prouder of them both.

What’s been your favourite thing about being a grandparent to a deaf child?

So many lovely memories come to mind, but seeing the difficulties and obstacles they’ve personally overcome, however large or small, has been very
special and inspiring. We’ve had a lot of fun together too.

What’s been the hardest thing?

Undoubtedly, how deafness is misunderstood. Our personal low moment came at the transition from primary to secondary school when we lost a Tribunal. It impacted upon us all severely but we came together as a family and found a way through.

How did you learn more about deafness?

We found out all the information we could; the National Deaf Children’s Society was invaluable, but we also joined local deaf groups, met other families, visited a deaf primary school, threw ourselves into the boys’ social activities, attended audiology appointments and learnt to sign.

How do you support your child with his children’s deafness?

My son and daughter-in-law are working parents so there’s very little we’ve not done, especially once we retired. We’ve supported them practically with the school runs and babysitting. But also through being there for our child, giving him encouragement and support.

What advice do you have for grandparents who can’t always be around?

We used to live further away, so understand it can be difficult. Coordinating our diaries helped us make the best use of our time, but it was lovely to use Skype to keep close. My son was also very good at making short videos to keep us up to date.

When the boys were young, we were all working. We were mindful that parents have a lot of admin to do so we’d have the boys at the weekends so their parents could concentrate on completing a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) form, for example. We also recognised there were times when they didn’t need our help and wanted their own space.

What top tips do you have for other grandparents of deaf children?

Get all the information you need to help make informed decisions, support your own child as well as your grandchild, and always involve siblings and wider family. Where you can, attend your grandchild’s audiology appointments as you’ll get a great sense of how they’re progressing. Also play lots of games with your grandchildren – it’ll help you develop that important bond.