Insight into life of Hitchin's hearing impaired Pearl during Deaf Awareness Week
PUBLISHED: 08:30 18 May 2017
The mother of a teenager who was born deaf has told the Comet what life is like for her daughter, as part of Deaf Awareness Week (May 15-21).
Sharon Cooper, who lives in Hitchin, knew life was going to be difficult for her daughter Pearl when she was born deaf and with a cleft palate, but she was determined to ensure she had as much support as possible from the outset.
Sharon discovered The Elizabeth Foundation - a charity which helps pre-school deaf children to listen and talk - and met speech therapist Jane Shann.
Jane went on to establish The Phoenix Group for Deaf Childen in 2004 - a charity based at The Hyde in Stevenage which helps young people who have hearing impairment overcome barriers and build their confidence.
Pearl went to Woolgrove School in Letchworth, which is for children with special needs, and Knightsfield School in Welwyn Garden City, which is specifically for deaf children.
Sharon said: “Things are difficult for Pearl, but people love her and she is a sweet girl.
“She wears hearing aids, but she is very deaf. She speaks, but it is difficult. There are sounds she can’t hear or say but she does the best she can.” Seventeen-year-old Pearl, who loves to immerse herself in books and delights in regular trips to the library, has her sights firmly set on a career in catering.
Sharon said: “She loves cooking and is hoping to do a course in hospitality and catering in September. Her favourite thing to bake is bread, when she experiments with different flours.”
Refusing to allow her disability to hold her back, Pearl has completed work experience at Molly’s Tea Room in Hitchin and is working on her confidence by volunteering at the British Heart Foundation’s charity shop in the town centre.
Sharon said: “She’s shy and quiet and not confident. It’s about her having the confidence to speak, because she’s not very clear.
“Just like any other girl her age, she deserves to find the right future for her, which is college, and we are just trying to decide which one is best for her. I just need to know she is going to be well supported.
“I want her to have the same choices as any other child. She will be an asset to somebody some day as she will be a good worker.”
Last week, Pearl received an award for raising the most amount of money for the Stevenage and District Charities Annual Sponsored Swim.
For the event, which took place at Stevenage Swim Centre in October, Pearl raised £771, of which Phoenix will receive 50 per cent and the remainder will be split between the other charities represented at the event.
Phoenix is also one of Stevenage mayor John Lloyd’s charities of the year, and he presented Pearl with her special award.
Sharon said: “It took her a long time to learn to swim when she was younger, and she had a chest infection the week of the swim. I’m very proud of her.”
People can pop into Phoenix, based at The Hyde Out Community Centre at The Hyde in Stevenage, during Deaf Awareness Week for advice and support, along with a cup of tea and a slice of cake!
Advice sessions, which will include learning some communication tips - including British sign language - are taking place from 11am to 1pm today (Thursday) and from 3.30pm to 4.30pm tomorrow (Friday). There will also be the opportunity to meet a volunteer hearing aider from the Hertfordshire Hearing Advisory Service at the Thursday session.
The hearing aider programme is where volunteers visit residential homes, day centres, sheltered accomodation and housebound people to offer practical help and advice with their hearing aid.
For more about the programme, and the advisory service in general, visit www.hhas.org.uk
For more information about Phoenix, visit www.phoenixgroup.org.uk