Jackie’s Story

As part of our 40th Birthday celebrations, we asked all of our young deaf adults, who undertook the Natural Aural Approach with their families with DELTA throughout their childhood, to share us their stories. 

Our young deaf adults are our success stories of the Natural Aural Approach from DELTA, providing inspiration and support to families of newly diagnosed deaf children proving that deaf children can speak for themselves, naturally. 

We have been delighted to hear from Jackie Clarke who shares her story. 

Jackie shares her story

I was born at 26 weeks, weighing less than 2lbs. I was one of two girls but, unfortunately, my twin died at a month old. I had all the regular hearing tests but, because the health profession had very little knowledge of the effects of prematurity, I was undiagnosed until I was four. By this time the local health visitors were starting to think that I possibly had mental problems, since I’d plateaued with my development- how wrong they were (at least I think so!).

I was then diagnosed with bilateral moderate to severe hearing loss and there began my journey of learning to cope with hearing aids. That also was all I needed to catch up with my peers in all other aspects.

Jackie Clarke

I was very fortunate to be given a place at the Mead Aural School in Stoneleigh from age 4. I stayed there until I was 7 and this experience prepared me for education in mainstream.

I was accepted at Yattendon, a local mainstream primary school where I had brilliant support and was encouraged to join in productions and all aspects of school life. This really helped to boost my confidence. I made friends there who I still meet up with regularly.

Secondary education was then an easy transition. I was really nervous about any drama productions but, again, with good support and encouragement, I overcame this, which gave me increased confidence. I attained 9 GCSEs A-C grades which included German which hopefully will show in any CV that the hearing loss is really no hindrance at all.

It seemed a natural progression to go on to sixth-form college at Reigate and it was here that I really appreciated the use of note-takers. I was the envy of many friends since I could listen to lectures without writing a word and come away with a full script of what had been said. I managed to get 3 ‘A’ levels despite having investigations for a bleed on the brain, during my exam time.

I’ve been involved with DELTA since 15 years old, helping out at Summer schools when I could. I loved meeting up with families and sharing my own experiences with others. One of the highlights was meeting up with the Countess of Wessex and Charlie Dimmock. 

Over the years, I have learnt how invaluable the ability to use my hearing aids in conjunction with lip-reading has been. It has equipped me to cope with everyday life, to the best of my ability, without it being obvious that I am disabled in any way.

At 15 I was asked by St Helier hospital if I would help them test digital hearing aids. They used me because of my ability to communicate. The first time I wore them home from the hospital I could hear this sound I’d never heard before. I asked my mum what it was, and it transpired it was the wind! Digital aids have definitely improved many aspects of my ability to hear, particularly in group situations. I hope advancements will continue so that we can get even more from life.

Due to having another small bleed on my brain, I decided not to continue with further education and have worked at Waitrose since Oct 2004- full time. I used to work mainly on the Delicatessen, but since developing inoperable double vision, I am now based mainly on the tills. although often help out elsewhere in the store. I love the interaction with customers and staff. I am renowned for my ability to talk and if anyone walks into the store, they are soon aware if I am around or not!

I have been a member of a local evangelical church since I was a baby. I have grown up with an extended family which has been of tremendous support through any difficulties that have arisen. I play the drums at my church and am involved with a band which plays at various churches and functions such as fetes. The music is varied and we have many lively songs which I love, as I can play as loudly as I like to my heart’s content. People are amazed that I can play drums with my hearing impediment but I can feel vibrations in a way that many hearing people can’t.

On a Sunday evening I used to meet up with several young Christians from churches in the Redhill and Dorking area. We met in a local pub and had a brilliant social time. In more recent years, especially since COVID this has not been happening, but many of us keep in touch and meet up for walks or get togethers, when we can and are allowed.

My main hobby is watching football. I support my local team Crawley Town. Up until this year probably most of you had never heard of them.  I also love watching cricket. Neither are typical girl hobbies but I love them both and it means I am never short of a topic of conversation with the boys I work with.

I passed my driving test when I was 21 although I am currently not able to drive, due to a problem with seeing double. It’s quite interesting trying to lip read when the double vision is especially bad! Fortunately, people I mix with are all used to me now and never seem to tire of repeating themselves.

In 2016 I got married and had an amazing wedding with family and friends. We had a large marquee in the church grounds and had over 200 to the wedding and 150 to the sit down. I was married by a minister in our church, who I’d known since birth and a very close friend, who is like a second dad to me. I live about 5 miles from my parents so am still able to use my old home for the occasional bath and dropping of some washing!

In more recent years I have found the cerebral palsy making it harder to do physical activity. However, I am constantly encouraged by family and friends, and still enjoy walking and playing drums and am still able to work full time.

COVID has presented some extra challenges, especially at the start, when management at work thought I needed to take off my mask to lip read! They soon realised I needed customers to remove their masks if any conversations could happen. Most customers were grateful to take their masks off for a few minutes!

In September last year I became an auntie to Tommy, my nephew. The Whatsapps and pictures have kept me going through these strange times. I love nothing more than feeding him and playing with him. I intend to ensure I encourage as much mischief as possible to his mum as he grows up!

I feel I lead a very full life despite being labelled ‘disabled’. I only feel I miss out on some conversations, particularly with people who are not aware of my hearing loss.

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If you have liked reading Jackie’s story, please consider giving a donation to DELTA to continue their work in supporting families of deaf children across the UK to enable their children to speak for themselves, naturally.

Jackie Clarke

Read more DELTA Stories

We provide stories from more young deaf adults from across the UK and also from parents and professionals sharing their experiences of going through the Natural Aural Approach.

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