Faith and her hearing brothersPublished Date: 08 Jun 2023
Faith is the youngest in our household. She has three older brothers, and she has a very unique relationship with each one. All her brothers are hearing.
Leo, the eldest, is now an adult and works full time, so he doesn't see Faith as much as her other brothers. As there's a big age gap between them, they don't really do many activities together! On the rare occasions they do spend time together, it's either to argue or have a chat about the games she plays on her tablet as Leo's a gamer. Faith says he’s annoying when he tries to tickle her to cheer her up when she's had a difficult day!
Leo doesn’t sign anymore. He used to when he was very young, but when he started school, he realised the other children didn’t sign. They teased him for having deaf parents, so he stopped. We were totally fine with this and didn't want to pressure him. He’s now learning some of the basic signs again so that it's easier for Faith to understand him as she says he's hard to understand sometimes.
Lucas, who’s now a teenager, is the ‘fun’ brother who will play Roblox with her once a week. Sometimes he will simply lie with her and chat about her school day, but he knows when to back off if she’s overwhelmed as due to her selective mutism, she can struggle to answer questions or talk about certain things. He’s the one she goes to for comfort if she's annoyed or upset with someone else in the household. Apparently, he gives great cuddles!
But the one brother she has the closest relationship with, the one she plays with the most, and the one she wants to help the most is Reuben. She first became aware that Reuben was different to her other brothers when she was around three years old. He was born with complex needs, autism and a severe learning disability, so he needs 24/7 care. I simply told her that his brain worked differently to us, and she accepted that as it was short and simple for her to understand at that time.
As she has gotten older, especially this past year, she has started to ask a lot of questions about Reuben, and I've tried to be completely honest with her and encourage her to talk about it. She accepts Reuben for who he is, and she helps me a lot with him. I never ask her, but she will automatically get me whatever I need for him at that moment. She helps me to encourage him to take his medication daily.
Recently, we were on a family weekend break, and I realised I'd forgotten to pack Reuben’s epilepsy alarm. Faith was watching my conversation with my husband (we both sign to each other, so it's easy for her to follow what we’re saying!), and she came over and said, "Don't worry Mum, I’ll sleep in the king-size bed with him, and if I feel him shaking (having a seizure) I will just come and wake you up!"
Faith’s the only one who’s able to encourage Reuben to play, which is lovely to see. She gets annoyed if he refuses to play with her or when he struggles with certain things, but she says she’s learning to have more patience with him as she knows he can’t do a lot of things.
Reuben has communication difficulties, and while he knows some British Sign Language (BSL), he struggles to do most of the signs, so we use an augmentative and alternative communication (ACC) device with him. Faith asked to have it downloaded to her tablet so that she could use it with him too.
So in our house, we use various methods of communication – speaking as her brothers are hearing and that's their main language, BSL as that's our main language, and we also use the ACC as along with visuals! I imagine when people come to the house and see us all together communicating in so many different ways that they must wonder how on earth can we all understand each other, but we always do.
Faith’s bond with her siblings is special and different from most siblings. I love it when we go away on holiday together as that’s when you really see how close they all are, how they all support one another, and how they always look out for each other. Yes, they do still fight, argue and have disagreements like most siblings do, but they don’t do it very often. I just hope that as they grow up into adulthood that that bond remains always.