David Baddiel presents deaf West Hampstead teen with national award

Comedian David Baddiel with highly commended Young Person of the Year James Curtis. Picture: Richard

Comedian David Baddiel with highly commended Young Person of the Year James Curtis. Picture: Richard Tatham - Credit: Archant

Fourteen-year-old James Curtis was just eight months old when he was diagnosed as deaf.

But after two operations and years of verbal therapy, the West Hampstead youngster has learnt to hear and speak on a par with his able classmates and is excelling at a mainstream school.

His inspirational story was recognised by judges and comic host David Baddiel at a national awards ceremony celebrating young people’s communication development, where he was highly commended in the Young Person of the Year category.

James said: “Having the ability to fully communicate with the world around me has enabled me to achieve so much. I am now in an amazing position to show others what is possible and help them listen and speak just like me, and plan to carry on advocating the importance of auditory verbal therapy for deaf children.”

Born with hearing loss in both ears, James began wearing hearing aids at nine months old.

He then had cochlear implants fitted. These do not restore full hearing but allow James to distinguish some sounds and understand speech.

It took three years of auditory verbal therapy but now James has overcome all the odds to communicate just as well as those without a disability.

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A keen skier and member of a rowing team, James is the first young ambassador for charity Auditory Verbal (AV) UK, which helps deaf babies and children to hear and speak.

He also has a video blog, where he shares his personal experience of deafness to inspire parents who have recently found out that their child has hearing loss.

James said: “It would be easy for me to take for granted that I am able to communicate with everyone I meet, as I was very young when I had my cochlear implants and learnt to listen with the help of AVUK. But it was a great deal of commitment and work of family and teachers at AVUK that helped me, and I was incredibly fortunate for that..”

James was among several individuals, schools and organisations honoured at the Shine A Light Awards ceremony last month.

The glamorous event was held by education and publishing company Pearson in partnership with The Communication Trust, a coalition of more than 50 not-for-profit organisations which work to support children’s speech, language and communication development.

Comedian Mr Baddiel, of Hampstead, praised all those shortlisted for awards. He said: “Speech and language problems too often go under the radar, so everyone should not only be congratulated for their work but for bringing this important issue to the attention of others.”