My deaf teen’s brilliant work experience

Tiger Mother’s 15-year old moderately deaf daughter Hayley, who has autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), is getting more independent by the day – and now she’s got spending power!

Tra-la-la-la, ting-ting-ting – the tills of Christmas are ringing out merrily as I shove the groceries down the conveyor belt to my chief shopping assistant for her to pack.“No Mum, keep the chilled stuff together and leave the eggs till last!”

I do as I’m told. If there’s one thing Hayley loves, and excels at, it’s groceries shopping and bag packing. And today, as all around us the frenzy of seasonal panic buying is starting to fizz, Hayley can barely contain her own excitement.

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It’s not just the whole Christmas thing, which of course she loves. It’s her new secret weapon – spending power! When it’s time to pay up, Hayley whips out her supermarket gift voucher and hands it to the cashier. She’s earned it working on a youth work experience scheme where they pay wages in vouchers. And the deal she and I have struck is that each month when she gets her voucher, I pay her the cash equivalent.

It’s a brilliant local scheme. Hayley works two evenings a week at the village community centre where she helps on reception, prepares meeting rooms, does a bit of filing and loads the dishwasher. She loves it and better still, she’s evidently really good at it.

I recently took a phone call from Hayley’s boss, the centre manager. She tells me he’s very kind, asks her about her hearing aids and makes sure she hears and understands all the instructions.

“Is that Hayley’s mum?” he asked, and for the next five minutes he waxed lyrical about Hayley and how hard working and enthusiastic she is. He said he wished all his staff could be like her.

The rich and glowing praise was joy to my ears. I felt so proud of Hayley. And so glad for her. That girl puts her heart and soul into everything she does. It’s just rare that she gets it so right or gets the recognition. Her deafness and her ASD can prove a challenge, but she doesn’t let much stand in her way.

“Work is what Hayley’s been waiting for ever since she was little”

Work is what Hayley’s been waiting for ever since she was little. She’s never had much time or use for toys or games – she’s just wanted to copy the adults around her and do jobs.

When Hayley was six or seven and would help me with housework, she actually cried once when I told her that I’d washed the floor and not saved the job for her. I had to promise her she could clean the cupboards out instead by way of compensation. I swear this is true! I would set her chores like other mothers set up games and puzzles.

“It will stand her in good stead when she leaves school and starts applying for college and jobs”

Well now Hayley’s in her element. And hopefully it will stand her in good stead when she leaves school and starts applying for college and jobs. Anything that can help give her an advantage in a hearing world can only be a good thing.

In the meantime, she’s a girl on a mission – there are presents to be bought, and she’s loaded!

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