AN OSCAR FOR ʻTHE SILENT CHILD”

Many a “good” sign will have been shared within the Deaf community now that this short
but telling film has been shown on BBC1. It will have an impact on them and help raise
awareness in a world that so often ignores a hidden disability. I congratulate all involved in
making it, especially Rachel Shenton, Chris Overton and, of course, the lovely Maisie!
Read our next issue of Chainmail for a full review!

I had a child whose world was silenced, not from birth but from meningitis at 5 months.
When he was one, thanks to a perceptive peripatetic teacher, we started to use signs.
The sight of profoundly deaf Tom sitting in his big pram on a wintry day, puzzled that his
woolly mitts cramped his signing style as he tried to tell me heʼd spotted a dog behind me
is just one of many enduring memories.

With 90% of deaf children having hearing parents early communication is vital. Without it
much heartache and many future problems can result. We were so fortunate to have the
right advice at a vulnerable time which meant our youngest son could secure his place in
our family and let his personality develop from an early age. Without signs he would have
had no way of expressing himself and we would have had no way of getting to know our
baby in his newly silent world.

Books in the early 80s painted a sad picture of childhood deafness and when I discovered
a different take on this I decided to write my own, starting when he was 3 and finishing it
when he was 21! Making Sense in Sign - a lifeline for a Deaf Child, Multilingual Matters
Ltd. has been described by one ToD as “an inspiration in a world that often presents a
negative view of deafness”.

I once saw a similar scenario to the one portrayed in the film and I remember that my heart
bled for the child concerned. The challenge of bringing up a deaf child was considerable
but the rewards, in our case, were so many and continue today as we enjoy reading chatty
emails from Tom and have the joy of seeing his own hearing youngsters signing,
lipspeaking and talking with their very grounded and sensitive deaf parents, both of whom
are so attuned to their needs. I discovered from some paperwork recently that Tomʼs
future mother-in-law and I were both at the same seminar on Deaf issues at Guyʼs Hospital
in 1988! A small world - and one on which a small child has just made a huge impression!
Well done Maisie!

Jenny Froude