“I knew my husband for a number of years before we got together nine years ago. Not long after we got engaged, married, and had our first child who is now seven. Then we had Brynn (6) Theo (4) and Hadley (3). So we had four under four!
“From day one, with our second child, my husband said, “I think this baby’s deaf.” And I thought he was just not used to having a newborn, that he was used to talking to our toddler who responds. Brynn did three newborn screening tests and she failed all three. We were referred to audiologists to get an ABR (Auditory Brain Response) and at three months it was confirmed that she was deaf. By four months she had her first set of hearing aids.
“We didn’t really know what was involved the first time around. It was quicker with the next two, as we knew more about the process.
“When you get a hearing loss diagnosis, you get a support person who is an Advisor of the Deaf. When Brynn was almost a year old, our Advisor mentioned that there was an opportunity through First Signs New Zealand—a programme from 0 to 5 years old—to teach us sign language. It was a no-brainer for us, and six years later we’re still in the First Signs programme through Theo and Hadley.
“Talking with someone who is completely deaf—you have no other option than to be visual. You get pushed in at the deep end. You can choose to have an interpreter but we chose not to, for full immersion and to learn the best we could. If you’re fully immersed you have to swim.
“Even our hearing daughter has picked up signing quickly. The younger two—because we had been learning sign language before they were born and were signing from the get-go—they picked it up really young. Our youngest daughter was signing from six months old. It just goes to show that their brains are sponges and if you feed them that information they do take it in.
“For me, the best thing about learning NZSL is bridging the gap in communication. Especially with babies. They can’t always tell you what they want, they can’t necessarily express themselves but from a very young age babies can sign. Even just a simple sign that they want milk really helps . We found it a lot easier with the younger two as we were able to bridge that communication gap from day one.” Emily (Mum)