The two Hannahs

Over the last six and a half decades I have heard some wonderful stories in relation to children and adults learning to swim. This letter to me from Gaye about her and her daughters experience at the Shapland Swim School Warner is one of those wonderful stories.

“My name is Gaye Inall and I am profoundly Deaf and use Australian Sign Language to communicate. Hannah is my daughter and she is 3 years old. Hannah is also an only child.  She is hearing but is growing up bi-lingual her first language is Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN) she is learning English as a second language. Hannah is also an IVF baby; I was given only a 16% chance of ever having children of own. She is a dream come true for me, and I feel really privileged to be Hannah’s mother!

Hannah started learning to swim when she was six months old at the local public swimming pool. We took a break when then the weather became cold, I was not very happy at the public pool, the classes were always very big. When the weather started to warm up again, I did some research into swim schools. I found at the public swimming pool the classes for mums and babies had too many people in them and I got left behind and could not keep up with what has happening. All the parents would be going in one direction and I would turn around and discover I was on the other side of the pool…I seemed to always be in the wrong place! The teacher never had the time to explain or check. Some lessons went by where there was no individual attention for Hannah and I from the teacher. I felt we were not learning anything; I was not gaining any skills on what to do with Hannah when we were in the water. Due to my deafness communication with hearing people is very difficult. A lot of people assume that all Deaf people can lip read. This is a myth; only â…“ of speech sounds can be seen on the lips, when there is no sound to hear there are a lot of words that look the same, this turns communicating into a guessing game. On top of that swimming is something that is done in water, trying to see what you should be doing when everyone is in the water is difficult.

So I began to search for a new swim school, my search for a swim school ended when I found Shapland Swim School at Warner. I read on the website that there were only ever 3 children to a class. I have not looked back; Toni and all the teachers at the swim school are very supportive and really care about children they teach. We started again in the baby classes and Jodie always made sure I was following what was happening. There were lots of demonstrations! The classes being so small meant that Jodie had time to make sure I knew what I should be doing.  Hannah then graduated to a step class where she got in the water without me.  I taught the teachers some basic signs, so that they could communicate with me and Hannah. It also meant they knew what Hannah was signing to them too! Hannah did not speak until she was nearly 2 and half years old, this is quite normal for a child of a Deaf adult. I wanted Hannah to learn to swim, but also wanted her to have access to spoken language as well. The teachers at swimming have been part of Hannah’s development in helping her to learn English too. The other good thing about Shapland swim school is I can communicate via email. If I have a concern or if I want to know how Hannah is progressing in her lessons all I need to do is send Toni and email and she will find out the information I need from Hannah’s swimming teacher.  The swim school also was happy to communicate with me via SMS too.
Hannah loves her lessons; her swimming lesson is the highlight of her week. She talks at home all the time about going swimming. She sees older children having their lessons and she can’t wait until the day comes when she will also be able to swim by herself! I can’t thank Shapland swim school for enough for the work they do, the support and care we receive is very much appreciated. Gaye Inall”

As I said in the introduction this is a wonderful story and I am so thankful Gaye decided to share her wonderful story with me. Chris Shapland.