Community / Family of young deaf girl backs calls for investment in auditory verbal therapy

Maci (left) with her family - mum Nicole, dad Calum and sister Emmie. Photo: Supplied

THE FAMILY of a deaf three-year-old girl from Shetland are backing calls to the Scottish Government for “urgent investment” in the life-transforming therapy which is supporting their daughter to learn to listen, speak and thrive.

Maci was diagnosed as profoundly deaf after she did not pass her newborn hearing screening and is now being supported to learn to listen and talk with auditory verbal therapy, provided by charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK).

Her family has now backed calls to ensure all families with deaf children, like them, have the opportunity to access auditory verbal therapy.

It comes as the charity and young deaf people met with MSPs in Scottish Parliament to discuss how the government can improve outcomes and opportunities for deaf children.

Maci’s mum, Nicole Gilfillan, explained how the family felt after the diagnosis: “We were shocked and upset and had a 12-hour trip on the ferry with no internet access and just our thoughts to absorb the news.


“I just remember there being lots of words I had no idea what that meant, and we just felt very isolated.”

Maci then received her cochlear implants at 14 months old.

“Even as a baby we could see that Maci was getting very frustrated at not having the means to communicate,” Nicole said.

“We did use some sign language but also wanted to give her the opportunity to learn to speak.

“I first heard about auditory verbal therapy on an online forum for parents and it sounded perfect for us. After our initial meeting with AVUK we just knew this was the way we should go and we have never looked back.

“For us living in Shetland, where access to any sort of support and resources is completely limited, the support from AVUK has been amazing – they have been a true constant in our lives, and we will be forever grateful.

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“Maci is sociable and outgoing and quite headstrong. We can’t wait to see her carry on developing her speech and her personality.

“Seeing her doing so well and knowing that auditory verbal therapy is only available to a small number of deaf babies is why we are calling for more government investment so more deaf children like Maci have the same opportunities as hearing children.”

Today (Thursday) two teenagers who are both deaf and learnt to listen and talk with auditory verbal therapy met MSPs, including Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf, to share their stories and call for increased access to the specialist support.

Auditory verbal therapy is said to be evidence-based approach that supports deaf children to learn how to make sense of the sound they receive through their hearing technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, so they can learn to talk like their hearing friends.


Auditory Verbal UK said at the moment less than 10 per cent of deaf children who could benefit from Auditory Verbal therapy are able to access it.

Research by YouGov shows that 81 per cent of adults in Scotland believe auditory verbal therapy should be available via publicly funded services like the NHS.

Auditory Verbal UK chief executive Anita Grover said: “Far too many deaf children in Scotland still don’t have access to the early and effective support to develop language and communication needed to thrive in life.

“This means they face the prospect of lower academic achievement, lower employment prospects, and a higher risk of poor mental health, bullying and social exclusion.

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. When young deaf children and their families have access to effective, early support, whether their families wish to use spoken language, sign language or both, their opportunities in life can be transformed.


“And for those families who want their deaf child to learn to listen and speak, the specialist programme of Auditory Verbal therapy is enabling them to get an equal start at school. Urgent action is needed to increase access to Auditory Verbal for families of deaf children across Scotland.”

The charity is calling on the Scottish Government to provide £180,000 a year for a decade to “ensure that enough specialists are available so all deaf children in Scotland have the opportunity to access this transformative programme through existing services”.

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