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Sybil's adventures at Brownies

Published Date: 27 Jul 2023

I have some fantastic memories of being a Girl Guide, and I was always keen for Sybie to experience guiding too. Guiding empowers young girls to have adventures, discover new things, and make friends in a safe space. Sybie joined Rainbows when she was five, and a couple of months later I joined the unit as a helper.

Now Sybie is seven, and has moved up to Brownies. The transition has been really smooth – her Brownies leader is also the Rainbows leader, so already knew how to use Sybie’s radio aid system (nicknamed Roger) and has good deaf awareness. I still volunteer at Rainbows and occasionally at Brownies too.

I was helping out in a meeting shortly after Sybie joined Brownies, and I noticed a lot of the girls were asking questions about Sybie’s cochlear implants and Roger. We thought it would be a good idea to do a short deaf awareness/Q&A session during a meeting to answer any questions the girls had and explain how they could best communicate with Sybie.

Sybie and I explained that without her processors she's completely deaf, and that, although her processors are amazing and help her to hear lots, it can be really tricky in noisy and echoey environments. Simple things like taking turns to talk, getting Sybie’s attention before speaking, and making sure she can see lip patterns can really help.

We played a lip-reading game where the girls had to guess what I was saying with my voice off, and afterwards the girls asked some very thoughtful and considerate questions. The leaders are fantastic at using Roger, and Sybie is getting really confident at helping them manage Roger and advocating for herself.

Recently the Brownies had a kayaking trip on the River Mersey. Sybie was really excited when she heard the plan, but I was a bit worried about how well she would be able to hear and how we would manage her technology. I got in touch with the company running the activity, who assured me that it was very unlikely that any of the girls would get wet, and they told me what Sybie would need to know so I could brief her in advance. I offered to help out on the day and captain one of the rafted canoes (two canoes attached together, with seven girls and me!).

It was a gloriously sunny evening when we undertook our voyage, and although I had taken the waterproof covers for Sybie’s processors, I decided not to use them. This was one of those tricky judgement calls that parents of cochlear implanted kids sometimes have to make, but I decided that the risk of the processors getting wet was low. They were attached to Sybie by a safety cord, and the covers tend to dull sound for her to the extent that she wouldn’t be able to hear the chat from the other girls in the boat.

I decided not to take Roger. Instead, I took the Cochlear Mini Mic, on the assumption that I’d be in much less trouble if the Mini Mic ended up at the bottom of the Mersey! Of course, nothing fell into the river, and we had an amazing experience – it was a joy to see Sybie laughing and joking with the other girls as we bumped from bank to bank!

The Brownies also recently had a languages night, where parents who spoke different languages taught the girls some phrases and spoke about their country’s culture. I was asked to show the girls some British Sign Language (BSL) and explain how important Deaf culture is to BSL users. It was a fabulous experience, and the girls enjoyed showing off their signs, and showing us what they already knew.

Sybie loves Brownies, and it’s a joy to see her growing in confidence, making new friends, and having positive role models in the leaders and older girls. I can’t wait to see what adventures await her on her guiding journey!


Holly and her husband Adam are parents to Sybil (6) and Francis (4). Sybil is profoundly deaf and uses cochlear implants.