Hard work results in significant improvement
Learning to speak hasn’t come easy for Aria Taiatini.
The four-year-old is profoundly deaf and on top of learning to listen, she has had to overcome a phonological disorder that made it difficult for others to understand most of her words.
Parents Maryanne and Cody found out their daughter was profoundly deaf when she was 7 weeks old after she failed newborn hearing screening.
“I tried to prepare for the news that she could be deaf and initially I thought I would be fine.... but once the words came out, I was in shock,” Maryanne says. “A rush of guilt, fear and worry came over me thinking about Aria's life from that point onwards.”
Maryanne is a carrier of a genetic mutation which affects the hearing gene and both of her parents are profoundly deaf. It wasn't until Aria had a genetic test as part of the cochlear implant assessment process that they found out that Cody was a carrier of the same genetic mutation.
Two weeks after Aria’s hearing loss diagnosis she was fitted with hearing aids, but it wasn’t long before the new parents learnt the aids weren’t helping their baby to hear.
The family was introduced to the idea of cochlear implants and The Hearing House.
“The decision for Aria to get cochlear implants was a huge one on my part. Mainly because I have two Deaf parents who stand strong in their identities as Deaf people.
“The thought of my baby going for such an intricate operation made me anxious.
“Cody was sold straight away and was very keen to start the process as soon as possible.”
Maryanne and Cody were alerted to Aria’s severe phonological disorder by their Auditory-Verbal Therapist early in 2018.
After 5 months of extra therapy sessions at The Hearing House to retrain Aria’s brain on how to pronounce words, the youngster’s speech has “improved significantly”.
Maryanne says she is proud of her daughter’s emotional development, growing confidence and commitment.
“Aria has taught her preschool so much about Deaf culture and cochlear Implants. Each year we have a day where we celebrate New Zealand Sign Language and Loud Shirt Day. She absolutely loves being able to share her identity as a deaf person with cochlear implants with her peers and teachers.”
Maryanne says the hardest obstacle they have had to deal with was Aria’s phonological disorder, “but she is an absolute trooper and has been working so hard on overcoming it”.
“In all honesty, most people don't realise she is deaf until they see her cochlear implants.”
Aria having cochlear implants has made a huge difference to family life, Maryanne says.
“It has helped to spark joy and opportunity in her life in things such as music and dance. Things she wouldn't have been able to enjoy.”
It has also has brought out confidence in Maryanne and Cody who were “naturally quiet people”.
“We’ve had to open up and become more vocal in order to model language to Aria.”
Maryanne says organisations like the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme and The Hearing House means the world to families with a child who has a cochlear implant.
“From the day we stepped foot into The Hearing House we have felt nothing but unconditional support. The best thing is that there is always an open door policy, they become like family and no question goes unanswered.”
Maryanne is looking forward to Loud Shirt Day 2019 and seeing people support children like Aria, who is now learning and using all three of New Zealand’s official languages
“Loud Shirt Day is super important to our family because it gives Aria and other deaf children like her the resources they need to develop their speech and listening.
“Without Loud Shirt Day, Aria wouldn't be where she is today and we are so grateful to all whanau who contribute to Loud Shirt Day.”
Maryanne and her family get heavily involved in the annual fundraiser and have run bake sales, set up online fundraising pages, got Aria’s preschool involved and held fundraisers at their work.
“We always make sure we do something to show how thankful we are.
“Now that Aria is a bit older, she will be able to speak about how she feels about cochlear implants and we can share this on our Ears for Aria page.”