“I am deaf and I’m proud of it”
Eight year old Amaya recently told us about her dreams: “I would like to be a vet at wildlife hospitals and travel around the world saving animals. I would love to go to France and to Africa to help the giraffes, lions and cheetahs.”
Amaya also wants to be a professional sportsperson – maybe in the AFL Women’s League. She is already loving sports like Little Athletics and Auslan Auskick.
“As a family, we have made a big commitment to follow the best path for Amaya – wherever that might take us.”
Amaya’s mum Renee and dad Adam told us of their journey to this point: “From birth, the results of Amaya’s hearing tests were inconclusive but they thought she had a hearing loss in one ear and we could tell by Amaya’s speech that she was missing a fair bit. We returned to audiologists for more hearing tests every six months and just before Amaya’s third birthday, they gave a clear diagnosis. They told us Amaya had a mild to severe bi-lateral hearing loss. We were determined that Amaya would have as many supports in place for whatever she may need in the future.
She got hearing aids in both ears and a new baby sister, Imogen, all at the same time. We thought she may need to get used to the hearing aids gradually but she wanted to wear them constantly. She ran around for the first month enjoying everything she had missed out on. Little things like hearing magpies singing for the first time were so special for Amaya.
At that time, we were living in a small country town and thankfully, we had a fantastic travelling support teacher who provided early intervention assistance to Amaya. Yet we had to travel for three hours and stay overnight every time we had to visit the Ear, Nose and Throat specialists.
We felt we should move to Canberra so Amaya could access more support services but it didn’t work out as well as we hoped. Some people have told us that they thought Amaya’s hearing aids make it all better but it’s far more complicated. A year after getting the hearing aids, Amaya started four year old kinder in Canberra but unfortunately, she felt overwhelmed. She needed more time to develop her language and communication skills, and her resilience. We decided we would home school her.
At home, Amaya has been flourishing as we progress at her pace. We have focussed on providing a really strong foundation in language and reading skills with a gentle, one on one approach. If she is tired and struggling to hear, we can slow the pace. It’s fantastic that Amaya sees herself as a learner. We meet up with other families for some activities, and her social skills are really strong. We wanted Amaya to be able to have good language skills, to be able to communicate clearly what she wants and enable other people to feel comfortable communicating with her.
Amaya has surpassed our expectations already and she likes to talk with everyone she meets. She approaches everything head on – which is a great quality that will help her get what she wants later on in life.
We moved from Canberra to the Sunshine Coast to live near family but we struggled to find Deaf mentors to help Amaya feel positive about herself and her deafness. We were also struggling to learn Auslan (Australian Sign Language) on our own. So we decided to move once again, leaving our home by the beach to head to Victoria. It has been the best move of all and the number one reason for that has been the support services available through Deaf Children Australia.”
When they attended our free family camp last October, Amaya told us, “Being on camp with other deaf kids makes me feel like I’m at home”.
Renee and Adam explained how they felt they all got so much out of the camp: “Amaya really got a sense of herself being deaf on the camp. We had the instinct that accessing these kinds of activities is the path we need to follow and the camp reinforced it. After coming back from camp, Amaya started expressing, ‘I am deaf and I’m proud of it’. So now when people ask about her hearing aids, she feels confident explaining and telling them she is deaf. We are hoping to attend the next family camp coming up in April!
We can’t describe how wonderful it has been to be able to interact with deaf people of all ages. And the four of us are making a lot of progress with sign language. We started with DCA’s Auslan for Families classes, then we got an Auslan tutor who is also a Deaf mentor for Amaya.
We are about to return to DCA and South Melbourne District Sports Club’s Auslan Auskick program. They just make it so accessible for her with the interpreter. Now Amaya’s Auslan skills have taken off, Amaya will be able to follow the coaches’ instructions even on a noisy footy field. And after a season of Little Athletics, going to so many activities independently, she feels really empowered and strong.
In the past, we felt like we really had to push hard for services and supports that worked well for Amaya but DCA has such a great range of services. Starting with the camp, we felt excited about all the possibilities – and Amaya felt totally validated for who she is. The really personal approach of everyone who works at DCA has made us feel like we are part of another family, rather than working with just another service provider.
We want to advise other families starting out on this journey, the main thing is to follow your instincts about what you believe is best for your child. Support your child in whatever communication options work best for them – and pursue the supports they need.
Amaya’s hearing has deteriorated over the past twelve months but we are equipping her to be prepared for anything in the future. We will support her all the way to be able to reach her potential.”