Abeer's family growing in confidence together
When Abeer was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, single mum Tayibah felt lost and alone. Since then she has grown in confidence and is now looking forward to supporting other parents as part of the National Deaf Children’s Society Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) volunteer network.
“You have a very, very deaf child.” Tayibah repeated these words over and over in her head.
“I heard what the specialist said but I didn't understand it. It took months for me to realise that it wasn't like a temperature or a cough – it wouldn't go away.”
After a string of appointments, Abeer’s diagnosis as profoundly deaf finally came when he was two years old.
“Abeer was such a special gift and I didn’t know what to do to support him. He would sit quietly, in his own silent world, and I needed to learn how to communicate with him. I wanted to be a good mother to Abeer but I didn’t know how. I was beating myself up so much and my confidence had just gone. I stopped working, going out, talking to friends. A lot of people started blaming me, as if I had done something to make Abeer deaf.”
That’s when Amanda, Abeer’s Teacher of the Deaf, made some suggestions that kick-started Tayibah and Abeer’s journey to self-confidence.
“When I went to the National Deaf Children’s Society Newly Identified weekend, as Amanda had suggested, I realised I wasn’t the only parent of a deaf child. All I remember doing that weekend is crying. That was when Abeer’s deafness sank in and I realised what I could do to support him.
“I met other families, and we talked about what it was like to have a deaf child. As a parent you meet lots of professionals, but this was the first chance I’d had to meet other parents.
“I had grown in confidence so much, that I didn’t hesitate to sign up for the Parenting a Deaf Child course*. I was still nervous to start, so I missed the first class. I was determined to make it to the second, but my nerves kicked in and I left the house still wearing my slippers!
“At my first class we had to introduce ourselves, and I just froze and cried. By the time the final session arrived, I was really looking forward to the classes.”
Abeer’s becoming more and more confident with his deafness too.
“His cochlear implant operation earlier this year went well, and now he’s really thriving since beginning to sign. He’s no longer the quiet child he was – he bounces around energetically and keeps me on my toes! We really enjoyed the Family Sign Language course we did together earlier this year. Abeer picks up new signs really quickly, and we’re continuing to develop our signs together.”
Tayibah’s now working hard to improve deaf awareness amongst the people around Abeer.
“Even though he’s made lots of friends at nursery and is a popular little boy, deaf awareness is a big issue. He still gets left out a lot of the time; for example, people will bring him a drink, but they won’t ask him if he’d like orange or blackcurrant, like they ask the other children. They just bring him anything.”
Tayibah’s journey to understanding Abeer’s needs has inspired her to help other families in a similar situation.
“I’ve joined the National Deaf Children’s Society as a volunteer and I’m really looking forward to supporting other families. I can let them know, from my experience, that deafness doesn’t have to stop their child doing things and being independent.
“I don't want Abeer to ever feel down about his deafness – it's part of him. As much as he'll be proud of his achievements in the future, I want him to be proud of being deaf. Neither me nor Abeer knew how to communicate at the start. But we’ve gone from frustrated mother and confused child to confident mother and happy child.”
*The Parenting a Deaf Child course was part of the Positive Families, Stronger Communities project, which was funded by The National Lottery through Big Lottery Fund.