Deaf girl, 5, impresses MPs and VIPs as she makes her debut in the House of Commons
PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 June 2016
Born "profoundly deaf" Hope Dennis defied expectation to learn to hear and speak and live the life of a "normal five-year-old".
Presenting at the House of Commons would be intimidating for most people.
But five-year-old Hope Dennis didn’t feel any nerves when she stood up to make a speech to an audience of MPs, sporting heroes and VIPs at the Unique Power of Speech Event.
Hope, from Elsworthy Road, Primrose Hill, was one of nine deaf children chosen to speak at the event organised by charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK) to challenge perceptions of what deaf children can achieve with the right support.
Hope explained: “I talked about my school, my magic ears and the kind people at AVUK who helped me learn to listen and speak. I also told everyone about our school play, Dora the Dragon, and sang a song that we are learning in music.
“I was very happy talking to all of those people and would like to do it again. I really enjoyed telling them about my school and my friends. It was exciting to get up on the stage.”
Hope, who attends Sarum Hall School, was diagnosed with having hearing problems during a routine test for newborn babies. After continued persistence from her mother, Rebecca, the extent of Hope’s hearing restrictions were diagnosed at just weeks old.
Rebecca said: “The doctor turned around and said to me: ‘Well, your daughter is profoundly deaf. If a jumbo jet landed next to her she might flinch but that wouldn’t be from the sound, it would be from the vibrations’.
“It was a huge, huge shock.”
Rebecca and her husband, Oliver, decided to put Hope down for auditory verbal treatment.
The treatment involved Hope having bilateral cochlear implants at Great Ormond Street Hospital when she was nine-and-a-half months old, followed by three yeasr of therapy.
The innovative therapy teaches deaf children to listen and speak to help them develop lifelong communication and social skills, without the need for lipreading or sign language.
It stimulates auditory brain development to allow children with hearing aids and cochlear implants to make sense of the sound relayed by their devices.
“In a sea of no’s and managing expectations it became: ‘Yes, your child will go to a mainstream school and yes, your child will be able to speak’,” Rebecca said.
“We had the choice of dates for her operation to insert the implants and one was July 4, so we thought it was right she get it done on Independence Day.
“When it was time to turn them on, we were told some children burst into tears or smile when they hear sound for the first time but the best thing was for them to just carry on.
“She sat there playing with this toy and then she suddenly stopped and looked at me and looked at her dad. Then she just carried on with what she was doing.”
Now Hope is able to hear and communicate as well as any of the children in her class.
According to her mum she loves performing and singing and Hope told the Ham&High that her favourite subjects at school are Maths and French.
The enthusiastic pupil added: “We grew beanstalks in Reception this term and that was fun – mine is now very, very tall. I also really like playing with all my friends in my classroom and the playground.”
She said: “My magic ears are very special because without them I can’t hear. I have to take extra special care of them. They are fun but they are not a toy.
“Sometimes I ask my sister if she would like magic ears like me but she says she is happy with her own normal ears.”
Rebecca described Hope as “such a little comedian” adding; “She is very caring and has a huge amount of empathy, is happy, bright as a button and generally a normal five-year-old - and that is all we wanted for her.”
The children who spoke at the event will be joining stars including Usain Bolt, Daniel Radcliffe and Paloma Faith to mark the first Loud Shirt Day on Friday in support of therapy for deaf children.