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Adalaide's scouting joy

Photo: Read Adalaide's story

Adalaide (5) was born profoundly deaf but she and parents Alison and David are determined not to let that get in the way of her taking part in any activity.

As Adalaide beamed down from the top of the rock climbing wall, an activity she was doing with her school Beavers group, her mum Alison couldn’t believe how far she’d come. “This is the sort of thing I worried Adalaide might have missed out on,” Alison says. “We might have thought ‘She can’t climb rocks; it’s too dangerous being deaf.’ Things like this show me Adalaide can do anything she wants. Climb up a load of rocks? She can do it. If she wants to go canoeing, she can go ahead.”

But Alison and her husband David didn’t always feel this confident in Adalaide’s future. Initially it came as a shock when she failed two newborn hearing screening tests and they worried about her struggling at school and becoming isolated.

Although she admits that at first she felt ‘absolutely heartbroken’ when Adalaide was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, Alison remembers feeling supported from the very beginning. “At seven weeks, when we got the diagnosis, straight away they said that Adalaide’s a perfect candidate for cochlear implants,” she explains. “And the same day our Teacher of the Deaf, Heather, rang us up so we were really, really well looked after.”

Now both Adalaide, who has bilateral cochlear implants, and Alison are learning British Sign Language and passing it on to the rest of their family, including Adalaide’s sister Maddison (10) and brother Saul (2), both of whom are hearing.

"Things like this show me Adalaide can do anything she wants."

While she was thriving at home, when it came to deciding which school to send their daughter to last year, Alison and David had a tough decision to make. “After her first year at a mainstream nursery it became obvious that Adalaide’s communication and playing capability with other children was very limited,” says Alison.

“At that point I thought that she needed to be with other deaf children to fulfil her potential. We needed her to understand that she’s not the only one that has these processors stuck to her head. Her deaf-specialist school is about an hour’s drive from where we live and when she was due to start I was so nervous because I would be sending her on the bus on her own. But she got up, put her uniform on and said ‘Bye mum!’”

With a child so full of energy and enthusiasm, Alison quickly enrolled Adalaide in swimming and gymnastics classes too. “She’s a very confident, outgoing little girl,” Alison explains. “With gymnastics, she’s got a talent and she’s eager to do it. In the future, she hopes to do competitions.”

But Alison was worried their sociable daughter might not be able to join in with all activities. “With gymnastics it’s all very physical and I can sit there and watch and intervene if there’s a problem. And swimming is one-to-one because I wasn’t confident about her learning in a group,” explains Alison. “I knew I wanted her to have another hobby but I’d never have considered Beavers or anything like that because I thought her language barrier would get in the way of that kind of group.”

Luckily, recognising that many parents might feel the same, Adalaide’s school Head Teacher, Beverley Hennefer, took matters into her own hands and started her own deaf Scouts group at Royal Cross Primary School, including Beavers for Adalaide’s age group, last January.

"She loves Beavers; it’s improving her confidence and her independence."

“I was so happy to hear about it because it was something I wouldn’t have found on my own,” Alison says. “It’s brilliant because the whole school can do Beavers and Cubs together every Friday afternoon and the teachers have been enrolled into the deaf Scouts group as leaders as well. The children all go with their jumpers, woggles and neck scarves on and they’ve got loads of badges now. Adalaide was dead impressed, especially when she got enrolled and was able to sign her promise. All the parents were invited and it was lovely.”

Since enrolling Adalaide hasn’t looked back and now has a large collection of scout badges that her nanna sews on to her Beavers jumper for her every week. “One of the badges they got was an Animal Care badge. They all had a trip to a pet shop and got to stroke and play with the animals; she was absolutely made up with that one,” Alison smiles. “She’s also got an Outdoor Goal badge and a Space badge; she really enjoyed drawing the constellations for that one.”

And the deaf Scouts group has allowed the rest of the family to come together and meet Adalaide’s school friends too, as they run special family sessions some weekends. “They have activity days every couple of months on a Saturday where they make campfire food, do knot-making, biscuit baking, and the whole family can go over and do that,” Alison explains.

“I think it’s really important that Maddison, Saul and David get to interact with everybody and see how everything is for Adalaide at school too. She loves Beavers; it’s improving her confidence and her independence.”

If you’re worried about your child taking part in extracurricular activities, Alison recommends that you contact your own local group. “I’d maybe stay with your child for a couple of meetings and when they are happy, step back and let the child excel. That was my biggest challenge as a parent, having to step back and allow Adalaide to do things by herself but I’ve learnt she can do it.”