Grace lives with hearing loss, but she benefits from a cochlear implant and has been visiting Hear and Say since she was a baby. She’s now six years old, and even though she lives in regional Queensland, she attends her lessons with mum and dad via our Telepractice Program.
Her dad Dan told me recently, “When she was born, Grace was like any other child. Her cerebral palsy came later on. She lost her hearing, her sight and her teeth and she’s got no head or body control. Her type of cerebral palsy means she can’t communicate with the outside world. She wants to, and she can understand, but she can’t communicate back yet.”
On Christmas Day, Grace and her family will be spending treasured time together at a big lunch.
“With Gracie, we put the presents in front of her and we tear it a little bit. We put her hand underneath the wrapper and with great delight she pulls at it as hard as she likes, to hear the sound of tearing paper. And I will tell you that she’s just as happy with the paper, as with the present inside.”
Being able to hear means that Grace is able to interact with the world around her. Her mum Lucy understands how hearing has completely changed her daughter’s life.
“She’s doing so much that she wouldn’t be able to do without her hearing. She loves music, she loves to watch The Wiggles and she goes to our local Primary school where she’s doing really well in so many ways, just like other children.
You can see by the look on her face when she’s knocked her cochlear off and you put it back on…it’s, ‘Thank goodness you worked out I want my hearing back!’”
Dan agrees, “Before all of this, we took hearing for granted and I’d never seen anyone with a cochlear implant. But you see the difference, the magic, when someone who hasn’t heard before gets given sound for the first time.”
There are many challenges along the way, when teaching a deaf child to listen and speak.
“Being a mum for a child like Grace, the toughest part is trying to give them the best and seeing them struggle… trying to reach their potential… trying to get them to be the best that they can be.
She loves to read and hear people reading to her, but she struggles with the frustration of trying to convey to people how she feels.
The work that Hear and Say does is priceless in my eyes because it’s just opened up Grace’s world so much,” said Lucy.
Grace has been learning to use an eye gaze communication device since January. This device picks up where her eyes are looking with a camera, with Grace needing to focus on a picture for several seconds to select it. The device will then speak the word she chooses.
Her device consists of words organised in folders by categories, such as people, animals and places. It is fully customisable so Grace can select words that are important to her – like the names of her older brother and sister, Will and Anna.
After almost six years working with the team at Hear and Say, Grace recently initiated her first independent communication — thanks to therapy, technology, and a lot of hard work and support.
For Dan and Lucy, it’s a dream come true.
With her eye gaze and her cochlear implant, Grace is now able to interact, express herself, and over time will learn to advocate for herself.
“Gracie has significant issues with movement, and also speech and sight, but the thing that I’m so proud of with Gracie is her ability to communicate, and the new things that she’s come out with,” says Dan.
“Just recently it was Father’s Day and she said, through the computer,
‘Daddy I love you.’”
“And she just keeps saying that, and when I talk to her and she listens, I ask her questions, and she responds —when you can see those improvements… it really makes you proud.”
Grace will require ongoing intensive therapy to help her get the most our of her device and her newfound communication.
The gifts of sound and speech are essential to the person you become and the personality you express. Donors like you allow children like Grace to hear, speak and live.
Dan and Lucy are extremely thankful for support from the entire Hear and Say community, “The whole of Hear and Say are very much like a family to us. Gracie enjoys it so much”.
It’s so wonderful to see the progress Grace has made and will continue to make in her journey with Hear and Say.