Health & Wellness

Learning to Listen Without Hearing

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TIM SMITH 

Janet Scott was devastated when she discovered her young daughter Alika had severely impaired hearing. 

Since then, the mother has experienced the joys of helping her child learn to cope with the world around her, before watching with pride as her daughter thrived in the workplace doing the job she loved. 

Now Ms Scott finds herself preparing for a moment all mothers dread – her daughter, aged 48 but unemployed in a desperately tough economic climate, is ready to leave Bermuda in pursuit of a new job. 

“I have got to let her go,” Ms Scott said. “She wants to go. She tells me, ‘You have to stop getting upset.’” 

Alika was one of 750 staff made redundant when the Fairmont Southampton, where she served for 18 years and won awards including the Star Employee of the Year, closed last October for an 18-month refurbishment programme. 

Unable to find work in Bermuda, she hopes for better prospects in the UK and dreams of finding work in a hospital. 

“I just want to work,” Alika said. 

According to her mother, Alika loves to help people. She can be in the grocery store and will suddenly start assisting people with their packing; during the pandemic she delivered groceries to the needy all over the island. 

In recent months, she helped introduce a regular sign language interpreter to Saturday morning worship services at a Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

But it wasn’t always easy for Ms Scott to appreciate the hand her daughter had been dealt. 

“In the beginning it was very rough,” she recalled. “I would get depressed just thinking about how I brought a child into the world and this happened. I always worried.” 

A turning point came when she took Alika to a children’s hospital in Boston and noticed how easily she won people over. 

“They loved her. They wanted to keep my baby there, they loved her so much. Everywhere we went, people just picked it up.”

Aged 4, Alika joined Friendship Vale, a school for the deaf in Devonshire, and was no longer alone in her condition. 

“They were one big happy family,” Ms Scott said. “Parents were so happy to know that school had come into existence. All of a sudden, these hearing-impaired people were showing up, and all I could keep saying was ‘Praise the Lord’.” 

Alika learnt sign language and is also a proficient lipreader. She can hear very faintly and will occasionally joke with her mother: “Not too loud, you will hurt my ears.” 

She graduated from Orange Technical Education Centre in Florida in 1997 and has worked at Daniel’s Head Village as well as the Fairmont. 

Alika’s family and friends have provided invaluable support. 

Older sister Teri Gibbons said: “She’s hard-working, very kind and helpful and doesn’t put any limitations on herself.” 

Ms Scott said: “With the love of our family and friends, I have been able to understand her, listen to her, watch her and help her to make me understand, so I am able to cope with it more than I did at the beginning. 

“I’m proud but very protective. Sometimes we are grumpy together, but she says, ‘Mother be nice to me, you know I love you.’” 

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