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Support for Olivia through the generations

Published Date: 05 Oct 2023

Throughout the last two years of Olivia’s life, her grandparents really stepped up for us. When times were good and when times were tough. They were there through it all. And continue to be.

Olivia is blessed with very hands-on grandparents. From the moment our little one was diagnosed as deaf they asked questions, did research and followed our lead on how to best support her. Anytime we pull up in the car to her grandparents’ house she gets so excited and starts clapping and kicking her feet with joy.

In the early days, the first important skill we asked them to develop was their deaf awareness. Simple changes can make a huge difference to a deaf child’s life. For example, getting Olivia’s attention first before communicating. This could be done through waving, tapping her gently or stomping on the ground so she turns to the vibration. Making sure to face her in a well-lit room so she can focus on your expressions. And, speaking to her as normal while using as many gestures as possible so she has a better understanding of what you’re trying to communicate.

They encourage other family members to be deaf aware too. They teach Olivia’s cousins to be deaf aware and show them how to use different signs when playing together. They always ensure she is included. Like us, they lead by example, and this has a positive domino effect on the rest of the family.

My nana (Olivia’s great-grandmother) even attended the family group at deaf club with us. I remember the day my nana and I walked through those doors for the first time with a tiny little baby feeling lost and confused. I actually tried to leave as I felt so overwhelmed, but they managed to convince me to stay. And I am so glad they did.

At that time, I had nowhere else to turn, so I went to deaf club for guidance and support. And that’s exactly what we got. Now I walk through those doors happily knowing they taught me how to be deaf aware and how to communicate with my baby. I will never be able to repay them for that. But I couldn’t have walked through those doors in the first place without my nana by my side.

My nana is a confident lady, and so she has no shame in asking for help or clarification with her signs. And it got me thinking, my nana has nine grandchildren and Olivia is her first great-grandchild. At 75 years old, she’s learning a new language for my daughter, and that fills my heart with joy.

They all understand that Olivia’s mode of learning is entirely visual, and they make a conscious effort to make everything visual or act things out. This allows Olivia to pick up new skills easily like drawing, running, jumping, gardening and kicking a ball. This visual example gives her the confidence to copy and explore her surroundings.

The playroom they designed at their home also supports visual learning for Olivia. They have their flash cards with signs, shapes and numbers, as well as the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet displayed on the walls. The room has colourful lighting to give Olivia and her cousins sensory stimulation too. Not to mention a range of puzzles, toys, games and colouring for her to do when she is with them. Constant opportunities to learn.

When it comes to signing, they all try their best. They observe our interactions with Olivia and pick it up as they go along. They have attended family sign classes, used books and flash cards to develop their signing for Olivia. They are hoping to take a BSL level 1 class in the future too.

Above all though, they make our little girl feel special and loved. Their efforts haven’t gone to waste as the bond Olivia has with all of them is strong as ever. Olivia adores her grandparents and knows how loved she is.

They happily follow our lead in the plan to best support Olivia, going as far as embracing her language, community and culture that is all new to them too. It’s something we don’t take for granted. Their unwavering loyalty, support and love is what makes Olivia and her mummy and daddy, so very lucky. She will go on to do great things with a support system like this behind her.

Yasmin and Scott

Yasmin and Scott are parents to Olivia (2), who is profoundly deaf. Olivia and her family are currently learning British Sign Language (BSL). They live at home in Scotland with their wee dog, Milo.