TODAY (February 25th) is International Cochlear Implant Day, which aims to raise awareness of cochlear implants across the world.

One little girl who knows just how life-changing cochlear implants can be is Year 2 King’s Ely Acremont (Pre-Prep) pupil, Onna.

Onna’s mum, Tanya, says cochlear implants have not only transformed her daughter’s life, but their whole family’s lives.

Tanya said: “For our family, February 25th has a special resonance as it is International Cochlear Implant Day. Our daughter, Onna, who is profoundly deaf, wears bilateral cochlear implants to help her access sound. I use the term ‘access sound’ because Onna has permanent hearing loss and will never be able to hear in the true sense of the word.

“The implants bypass her natural ear system by turning sounds into electronic signals which directly stimulate her auditory nerves and ‘trick’ her brain into thinking it is hearing. Without this miracle technology, Onna cannot hear anything at all. The cochlear implants have literally transformed Onna’s life, and by extension our family’s life, but this transformation would never have been possible without a concerted team effort to support Onna as she learned first to listen and then to speak. We have had such dedicated support from the NHS, Cambridgeshire SEND Services, Onna’s auditory verbal therapists and – crucially – from her teachers and friends at King’s Ely.”

Onna and her twin sister, Sala, joined King’s Ely Acremont Nursery in 2016, three months after Onna had her cochlear implant surgery.

Tanya said: “At that time, Onna could not speak a single word – not even her own name – but the Nursery team scooped her up with such enthusiasm and compassion, helping her take the first steps in her speech and language, and onward learning journey. The confidence and friendships that Onna forged thanks to her soft landing in this fun, nurturing and active environment set her on the path that she is still following today, surrounded by friends who have been with her from the beginning.

“As she joined her peers when they moved up from Nursery to Acremont, the challenges mounted for Onna. She had to keep up with a whole new pace of learning, while simultaneously trying to learn to speak (Onna had been misdiagnosed as a baby so did not get an accurate diagnosis and her cochlear implants until she was almost three years old, and she had therefore missed out on the first three years of critical language development).

“The team at Acremont have given Onna all the support she needs, working one-to-one with her when necessary and accommodating a busy schedule with external therapists, while also ensuring that she never feels singled out or different to any other child. Onna feels as much a part of the King’s Ely community as any other pupil. That is quite a feat, considering she is the only profoundly deaf child in the entire school and for a long time could hardly use her voice to communicate. In our opinion, this is a strong testament to the special nature of King’s Ely, which values and develops the individuality of every single child while simultaneously building such a strong team spirit.

“Onna has always loved her school; she enjoys learning and is always up for exploring something new. In September, she will be moving up to Junior School alongside her sister and her peers: another challenge, another opportunity.”

Tanya added: “From the first moment of her diagnosis, our goal as her parents has always been that Onna will ultimately be able to access the same opportunities in life as her twin sister, who has also been Onna’s greatest supporter, ally and ‘speech teacher’ on this journey. We have always believed that, given time and the right support, Onna would catch up with her peers and thrive, and this has been our constant focus through the hours of speech and language therapy, audiology appointments, and endless assessments of one kind or another, which Onna has cheerfully and courageously faced. King’s Ely took this leap of faith with us when Onna joined Nursery as a non-verbal three-year-old. Today, she is a seven-year-old chatterbox, proving to us that amazing things are possible with a can-do attitude. Onna still has a long way to go but with the support of this wonderful school, and all the external professionals who continue to work with Onna – not forgetting her cochlear implants, which she aptly calls her ‘magic ears’ – there is every chance that Onna will continue to surprise us and surpass our expectations.”

Faye Fenton-Stone, Head of King’s Ely Acremont, says she and her team have nothing but admiration for Onna’s resilience and determination.

Mrs Fenton-Stone said: “It is quite amazing what can be achieved with belief and commitment. As we are committed to bringing out the best in all of our children at King’s Ely Acremont, so we have this ambition for Onna.

“Equally, Onna has shown us over and over again that she is a child with gumption and determination. Her resilience to remain chirpy, not give up and always try hard to meet the targets set by her team have continually impressed us. Against the odds, Onna has shown the adults around her that there is no ceiling to what is achievable and we embrace that kind of challenge at King’s Ely.”

Happy International Cochlear Implant Day from everyone at King’s Ely, Onna!

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