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May 20, 2005

Mother's plea for deaf awareness

From: East Anglian Daily Times, UK - Apr 20, 2005

THE mother of an eight-year-old profoundly deaf boy is appealing to the public to be more aware of people with hearing problems.

Charlotte Jenkins' son, Wilfred, was born deaf but with the help of the Thomas Wolsey School in Ipswich and the Royal School for Deaf Children in Kent, where he is now a pupil, he has made giant strides in speaking and in the use of sign language.

Mrs Jenkins, who lives in Laxfield, said blindness was much more easily recognised by members of the public than deafness.

"It is very important to make people aware of deafness and the problems it can cause in communication and other aspects of life," she said.

She is appealing to people to support Deaf Awareness Week, which is being held from May 2 - 8, co-ordinated by the UK Council on Deafness, based at Little Horkesley, near Colchester.

Organisations working with deaf people across the country will be promoting awareness under the slogan: Look At Me.

The aim is to improve understanding of the different types of deafness by highlighting the range of methods of communication used by deaf people and those with impaired hearing.

Mrs Jenkins said in his younger days her son had often become frustrated by his failure to communicate or understand what others were saying.

"Once, when I was out shopping with him, he threw himself down on the ground in a rage. A woman came up to me and suggested what he needed was a good slap on the backside," she said.

"In the early days I would rather have had my toenails pulled out than take Wilfred to the shops but, now he can communicate and understand others, he is no problem," Mrs Jenkins added.

She has learned sign language in order to help her son communicate. Speech therapy at the Royal School has also been beneficial to Wilfred who also suffers from dyslexia and co-ordination problems.

"He is learning to speak more easily and this makes it easier to take him out to places where can interact with people," she added.

Mrs Jenkins said in caring for Wilfred she had received great help from her family, friends, schools, the social services and national organisations for the deaf.

Nearly 15% of the population have some degree of deafness.

Statistics she that for every 10,000 people 10 will be born profoundly deaf, 20 will have become profoundly deaf, 100 will be partially deaf and 1,400 will be hard of hearing.

British Sign Language is the first or preferred language of about 70,000 people in the UK.

About two million Britons wear hearing aids and another million would benefit from doing so, according to the UK Council on Deafness. It can be contacted by telephoning 01206 274075.

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