Read Arlo's story
"On 7 September 2016, we received the devastating news that our little boy, Arlo, had been born profoundly deaf. He was just 5 weeks old. This was one of the hardest times in our lives. But skip on nearly 4 years and look where we are now! We have a bright, articulate, confident little boy, about to turn 4 years old and ready (yes, ready!) to start school in September.
"This story is about our journey through The Elizabeth Foundation who have helped enormously with getting us, and our little boy, prepared for ‘big school’ and beyond.
"During the first few months following the diagnosis, it was a time of grieving whilst trying to get our heads around the massive curve ball which had been thrown at us. Alongside this, my husband and I were kept busy with numerous hospital appointments (ENT, Paediatrician, blood tests, ECGs, MRI scan, audiology, ear mould fittings etc.) and during this time my amazing mum spent time researching to gather as much information as she could about hearing impairment and what support there was out there. She was given wonderful contacts by friends of friends which helped point us in the direction of various agencies that could help, and one of these was The Elizabeth Foundation (a charity offering education and support for hearing impaired pre-school children).
"In February 2017, we visited The Elizabeth Foundation for an open day to learn more about the facility and what they offer. At the time we were living in Devon, but it just so happened that we had a house in Chichester which we were letting – not a million miles away from The Elizabeth Foundation. We felt sure that we should relocate back to West Sussex so that Arlo could attend The Elizabeth Foundation and we could put in the maximum input during these crucial early years, in an attempt to prepare him as best we could before starting school. We were aware that what The Elizabeth Foundation offered was unique and there was nowhere else like this in the UK. This, along with the glowing feedback we had heard, made us even more determined to ensure we could utilise the facility.
"I spoke with Julie Hughes, the delightful Chief Executive of The Elizabeth Foundation, to confirm that we could get a place for Arlo in the Baby Group starting the following September, and we then set about moving our life back to Chichester. This was especially hard for my husband, Andy, who had set his heart on living in Devon. Around the same time Arlo had surgery for bilateral cochlear implants with ‘switch-on’ a couple of weeks before his first birthday.
"So we were set, and ready to embark on our journey with The Elizabeth Foundation, with the added benefit that Arlo now had access to sound through the cochlear implants (prior to this, Arlo heard nothing. Even the most powerful hearing aids didn’t offer him any sounds). Our Thursday morning sessions in the Baby Group were such a special time. Not only were we equipped with a wealth of knowledge and information about hearing loss and listening and language development, but these 2 hour sessions were a time for me and Arlo to bond even further with each other too. Away from work and home, I could put all my focus and attention towards my little boy while taking part in fun activities aimed at encouraging his early listening skills. Seeing Arlo’s little face light up when he banged the drum or jiggled the tambourine gave us so much joy.
"Moving on to the Toddler Group, about 6 months later, it was wonderful to see our little boy develop in confidence as he sat there on his little chair next to his friends, attending and listening. Nicki, his fantastic teacher, created a fun and caring environment with lots of activities to hone-in on listening and early language development, including singing, dancing, story time, cooking and opportunities to incorporate turn-taking. Arlo’s social communication skills were really starting to emerge, which was so reassuring to observe. He was also now saying a few words and building his vocabulary. At 18 months old, just 6 months after ‘switch-on’, Arlo could now say about 10 words (No, Yes, Open, Up, Baa, Go, Milk, Quack, Hello, Bye bye). This continued to grow and even before he was two years old he was able to string two or three words together (‘Arlo fix it’, ‘red car coming’). He was overhearing conversations and starting to mimic what my husband and I were saying. Assessments at the time indicated that his speech and language skills were on par with hearing children his own age – remarkable!
"When Arlo was two and a half, he made the big step to Adele’s Preschool Class, where parents no longer remain in the classroom. I love the ‘open door’ policy at The Elizabeth Foundation, where they encourage parents to observe their child in the setting. I felt really sneaky peering through the window to watch Arlo, while ensuring he didn’t see me! He always looked so happy and content and I always knew he was having the best time, while learning lots too. At the beginning of each topic, we were provided with hand-out sheets with vocabulary, song and activity ideas so we could continue the topic at home to really reinforce the knowledge. Each week, after lunch, the children would take part in a creative activity. Arts and crafts is not Arlo’s favourite activity, but he was so pleased with himself when I greeted him at the door one day, holding his ‘tank train’ (a pile of boxes and rubbish!). The structure and routine of the sessions throughout our time at The Elizabeth Foundation has given Arlo a great start and foundation to prepare him for school life.
"Our sessions at The Elizabeth Foundation have always been a highlight of our week – not just for me, but for Arlo too. He absolutely loved his time there and would be so excited about going each week. When The Elizabeth Foundation re-opened after a few months of closure during the COVID 19 pandemic, Arlo was so excited about going back to ‘Lizzie’s’ (as we affectionately call it!), he was dressed and ready, standing by the front door eagerly waiting to go – for once in our lives, we were early!!
"One of our proudest moments was when he played the part of Joseph in the Nativity performance. This was such a heart-warming moment – not just seeing our own little boy deliver his lines so beautifully in front of a room full of people, but all of the other children did brilliantly too. I felt proud for all the mums, dads and grandparents in the room.
"I remember quite early on, during one of the Baby Group sessions, how I hardly knew the other mums and dads, yet I felt a close connection with them already. Just knowing that they were going through some of the same things as us. Everyone’s deaf journey is different, but one thing we all had in common, was a hearing impaired child and that really brought us together. It felt so supportive. This support from other families is so important and was present right through our (nearly) 3 years attending The Elizabeth Foundation. The family room provides a brilliant space for parents to relax on-site while their children are in the pre-school class. Here we could chat about all the trials and tribulations surrounding life with a hearing impaired child. Knowing that these other parents just ‘got it’ was incredibly comforting. I am quite sure that we will continue to stay in touch with some of these families for many years.
"The Elizabeth Foundation has provided us with vital support in so many ways: access to specialist Speech and Language Therapy, with assessments and thorough, detailed reports; audiology services; lots of tips and advice and access to resources about the development of children with hearing loss; support and guidance with regards to Education and Healthcare Plans, what to look for when choosing a school, deaf identity… All this has been invaluable and has given us the confidence we need to know that we can support Arlo in the best possible way, now, as he transitions to big school and on into the future.
"There will always be challenges with having a deaf child, but being part of The Elizabeth Foundation community has really helped to smooth the ride in these early and crucial years. We are so grateful for the support, advice, care, understanding, expertise and experience offered by all the tremendous staff there. We will never know how things would have panned out if we hadn’t had their input and support.
"I have written this to share our positive experience of The Elizabeth Foundation and to help future parents of hearing impaired children. I would whole-heartedly recommend The Elizabeth Foundation to any other parents who have a deaf preschooler and, with their online program ‘Let’s Listen and Talk’, the advice and support is accessible to those who are unable to attend the foundation in person.
"We are sad that our time at The Elizabeth Foundation has come to an end, but we look forward to staying in touch, returning for future events and to continue to support the foundation where we can. Our journey with The Elizabeth Foundation has been such a success and they have really helped us, and Arlo, to get where we are today. He has excellent speech and language skills and is a great listener and communicator. He is a confident, happy little boy with a great sense of humour. We are grateful for the guidance we’ve been given by The Elizabeth Foundation to achieve this. As we look to the future and Arlo’s next step of starting school (mainstream primary school) I am sure there will be challenges ahead, but it gives us great confidence that he has had such an incredible start in life – a massive thank you to everyone at The Elizabeth Foundation.
"Finding out that your little one is deaf is so hard but, for any parents reading this, I can assure you that it is not all bad! We’ve met some wonderful people and it’s opened up a whole new world we would otherwise not have been a part of. We are so proud of Arlo, and his deafness, and he brings so much joy to our lives. He rocks our world."
"It gives us great confidence that he has had such an incredible start in life – a massive thank you to everyone at The Elizabeth Foundation..."