Ahead of the Third Sector Awards this evening, we visited Charity of the Year nominee Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK) at its office at CAN Mezzanine, Bermondsey to find out more about its work and what winning the award would mean to them.
Through Auditory Verbal therapy (AVT), the charity helps babies and young children with permanent hearing loss to listen and talk without the need for lip reading or sign language. AVUK work from a dedicated centre at Bermondsey, customised by CAN Mezzanine for AVT to take place. The centre houses therapy rooms, an audiology room and a video conferencing room for distance therapy.
Having previously been recognised at several awards including the Centre for Social Justice’s Model of Excellence award earlier this year, the charity works hard to raise expectations of what deaf children can do by working with families over a two to three year period.
The annual Third Sector Awards brings together senior charity professionals and industry partners to celebrate and honour the great work being done across the sector.
Family Support and Projects Manager, Beth Cardwell said, “It’s a huge honour to be the finalist for Charity of the Year at such an important and well recognised awarding body so the whole team is really excited about it”.
CAN has sponsored a table at the ceremony for AVUK, in addition to sponsoring the Enterprise Award and hosting the judging at CAN Mezzanine, Borough.
Communications Manager, Rebecca Crombleholme added, “It feels more special because we are such a small charity. We are very grateful to CAN for sponsoring us. It would be fantastic to win, we are so close!”
AVUK’s therapy sessions focus on interactive play and equipping the parents with the techniques to apply at home.
Beth said, “It is very much a model of collaboration between the therapist and the parent or carer. The therapist might be guiding and directing the parent but the parent will be actively involved in that session; learning and experiencing it all so they feel confident that they can take the learnings back into their home setting.”
Rebecca added, “It’s interesting seeing that journey from their first to last session because the parents share what they have been working on and what they want to do; they are in control which is really important”.
Beth said, “I think we are very privileged to work with the families for such a long period and see how much the children develop not only their language and listening skills but also their confidence.”
In 2016 AVUK published an outcome study which showed that 80% of children who spent at least two years on its programme achieved age appropriate or above language. It also carried out a cost benefit analysis which indicated that for every £1 invested in Auditory Verbal therapy, there is a £4 return.
Rebecca said, “Our key message is ‘challenging perceptions’ of what deaf children can achieve. They can have the same listening, thinking and language skills as any child and we want to increase awareness of this.”
Developing a customised office space, managed by CAN Mezzanine has allowed the charity to increase access to its services, raise awareness in the local area and attract the attention of MP’s and influencers.
Beth said, “It’s been crucial for us to be able to meet families based in South East England. Since moving from another office space in London, we have been able to provide more therapy rooms and have an audiology room which is very beneficial to families. Being on the ground floor by a busy road allows us to raise awareness in the local area.”
Last year AVUK hosted its Power of Speech event whereby nine young people, who had been supported by AVUK when they were younger, spoke to MP’s and experts in the hearing impairment sector at the Houses of Parliament.
Rebecca said, “It was a great opportunity to celebrate the progress that the children and families had made and raise awareness of the approach and the opportunities that deaf children have.”
Rather than building more centres, AVUK’s 15-year aim is to train health and education professionals across the country to deliver Auditory Verbal therapy, allowing the service to become more accessible to everyone.
Rebecca said, “Our goal is that for every professional we train in Auditory Verbal practice, they can go on to share their knowledge with others through a ‘teach the teacher’ model. The ultimate aim is for those who want a listening and spoken language outcome for their child, Auditory Verbal therapy will be available close to where they live.”
Beth said, “It’s all about making sure that families are aware of what their options are in terms of communication approaches and being able to make informed choices.”
The Third Sector Awards takes place on Thursday 21st September at the London Marriott Hotel from 6.45pm.
For more information about Auditory Verbal UK, please visit www.avuk.org