Eastbourne deaf boy at centre of campaign

A six-year-old profoundly deaf boy and his family from Eastbourne are calling on the local community to dress in their loudest clothes to support the charity that taught him to speak.

Sam with his parents SUS-180516-094244001
Sam with his parents SUS-180516-094244001

Sam Callaghan and parents Jo and Andy hope people in the area will join the many schools, workplaces, celebrities and community groups across the UK who are taking part in in Loud Shirt Day on June 8 for national charity Auditory Verbal UK.

Sam is one of the stars of a film made by the charity to promote Loud Shirt Day that has seen by thousands of people on Facebook.

Auditory Verbal UK works with pre-school deaf children with hearing aids or cochlear implants to teach them to listen and speak without the need to rely on sign language or lip reading.

Eighty per cent of children who spend at least two years on AVUK’s early intervention programme achieve spoken language skills that are equal to a typically hearing child of their age, and most attend mainstream schools.

Sam is one of more than 1,000 children across the UK that the charity has supported since its launch in 2003.

Jo and Andy found out Sam was profoundly deaf when he was five weeks old, and with no experience of deafness in their families, they were afraid of the unknown.

Jo said, “We were devastated. Hearing aids were of no use as there was no hearing to amplify. For the first time in our lives, we were scared. We thought that he would not be able to go to a mainstream school, that we would never be able to speak to him, that we wouldn’t be able to hear his views and opinions on life. We worried about him making friends.”

Further tests showed Sam was so severely deaf he was a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant, and he underwent surgery days before his first birthday.

“It was the best birthday present possible. Sam now had access to speech sounds, and we knew we wanted to maximise this potential and for him to go down the oral communication route rather than sign language.

“We were recommended Auditory Verbal UK by a friend of a friend, and even though the charity is based in London, we made the long journey and straight away knew Auditory Verbal therapy was what we wanted for Sam.

“Our therapist gave is the expert listening and spoken language approach we wanted, all through play based sessions that gave us the skills to practise with Sam in everyday life. They helped Sam grasp concepts and develop his understanding of the world around him.

“It has been a long journey but Sam is now talking away and was able to start school with language skills only just below that of a typical child his age. This is an amazing achievement for a little boy who we feared might never be able to speak.”

Sam now attends St John’s Mead Church of England Primary School, which will be supporting Loud Shirt Day to help give more deaf children all over the UK the opportunity to learn to listen and speak.

Loud Shirt Day officially takes place on June 8 but can be organised at any time.

To sign up head to www.avuk.org/loud-shirt-day-uk and join in the conversation on social media using the tag #loudshirtday