Hayley’s earning money!

Hayley’s got a new job, a budding fledgling bank account and friends – the girl’s going places

Saturday morning, in the car

‘OMG! I can’t believe it, Mum look!’

I resist the temptation to squint at Hayley’s mobile screen as I’m driving.

‘How about just tell me so I can keep my eyes on the road – is it good or bad?’

I can’t tell from the exact nature of the shriek but veering towards good rather than tragic I’d say.

‘I’ve been paid over £100!’

Extreme close-up of hand holding a modern smartphone with a generic mobile banking app running. This is a version with Pound symbol. Note to inspector, concerning copyright etc: The whole screen (every single graphic element, including battery indicator) is designed by myself.

I’m driving Hayley to work – her new weekend job at a big children’s amusement farm near us. It really is the Holy Grail of the teenage job market in this area – and she’s just seen her first month’s wages in her online bank account.

Hayley can still barely believe she’s got the job; the competition is huge. It took a lengthy application form, complete with points-based psychological personality profiling scenarios to respond to, then a four-hour team-based assessment evening with 40 other applicants – and hallelujah she got it!

She didn’t mention her deafness, although of course her hearing aids are visible. We’d decided not to put it on the application form either as she needed no support to communicate – with her hearing aids plus a little lip reading she gets on fine.

I do wonder if it would’ve made a difference had she flagged it up. We’ve debated in previous job applications whether or not to include it, deciding on the ‘let’s not give them any reason to turn her down, illegal discrimination or not, and bring it up later’ approach.

I don’t believe people are deliberately discriminatory but I suspect often, through lack of knowledge, some might imagine deafness will present too many difficulties so it’s easier to just sift out the application, perhaps for other reasons.

I know not everyone would agree, but I think deaf and proud guerrilla-style is the effective way forward for Hayley in these instances. Get in the door, then there’s the chance to prove yourself, that your abilities are as good as anyone else’s.

So Hayley’s doing weekend shifts, some on the activities side but mostly in their cafes. This is great because she’s aiming for a career as a chef and her hospitality and catering college course lined up for September requires students to have a part-time catering job to support studies.

Hayley couldn’t be more thrilled. That girl loves to work, the money’s just an added bonus for her.

She loves it – the uniform, the team meetings, doesn’t even mind getting up at 7am on a Sunday morning (no me neither, honest…). She’s made friends too, which is fantastic; school’s been a struggle socially all the way along.

Already it’s done lots for her self-esteem. At 5.30pm when they all troop out, the farm army of weekend workers, it’s so good to see her happy little face, enjoying being part of something worth having.

I know she should be spending those hours revising, I’ve clocked the looks from other parents of Year 11s, but as far as I’m concerned Hayley needs mates, self-esteem and a solid work record more than she needs top grades.

The balance between school work and activities

Hayley’s looking forward to the Christmas holidays after a demanding term in her final school year, while Tiger Mother is encouraging her to cut back on out of school activities.

Saturday morning, elbow deep in revision diaries and the family calendar

Hayley’s counting down the days until the end of term, getting more excited with every little chocolate reindeer that falls out of the windows in her advent calendar. It’s an exciting time evidently, Christmas, even for a 16-year-old – long may it last, I say.

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It’s also been quite intense at school so she’s looking forward to the holidays. The fact is it’s her final year at school – I can’t believe I’m saying it! – and the pace is hotting up. Lots of hard work is required. And earlier this month they started their mocks, which was quite a shock for her as the realisation hit how much effort is needed to succeed in next year’s GCSEs.

“Hayley’s got to knuckle down this school year”

Hayley’s got to knuckle down this school year and that means dropping – albeit very reluctantly – some of the many and varied out of school activities she usually does. There’s been a fair bit of wrangling over exactly what she can still fit in without it affecting her school work.

I’ve always encouraged her to take part in everything going – Guides, sports clubs, air cadets, work. She struggles socially due to her deafness and social communication difficulties, and having structured activities to go to has really paid off; it’s done her a power of good in terms of confidence, self-esteem and just learning about the world and how to be in it. It’s also equipped her with experience that might help her get a job in the future. But now there’s got to be a compromise between fun/experience and nose to the grindstone studying.

“Leadership experience will help her personal self-development”

She dropped Guides – easy because she was too old at 16. Ditto the local youth enterprise scheme, which gave her four hours’ paid work a week. But she is looking for a Saturday job, doing tennis every Monday and still going to air cadets twice weekly, though that’s under review. And now she’s decided to try Explorers, the follow-on from Guides and Scouts, which involves doing one night a week plus an extra evening as a young leader for Cubs. I can see the value of it though, as well as the fun. Leadership experience will help her personal self-development and possibly boost her job chances in the future.

“She’s not strong academically”

It’s just trying to decide together how far to tip the balance. She’s not strong academically, so has to try harder to get the minimum grades. But there again…

Aaargh, I don’t know!

Hopefully she’ll soon see for herself she can’t do it all and drop some activities of her own accord, it’ll be better if it happens that way. And I can always remind her about the NDCS Young Leaders courses next summer, which have an accredited leadership certificate – GCSE exams will all be over bar the shouting by then, so she’ll be able to throw herself into it to her heart’s content.

Deaf teenager Hayley loves her new job as a waitress!

Hayley couldn’t be happier at her new Saturday job as a waitress, and Tiger Mother’s so proud of how she brought up the subject of her deafness at the interview.

The waitress scowls over at me and I look away trying to keep a straight face. She’s just done a very professional job of taking down our order and bringing the drinks over to our table, not a drop of cappuccino spilt nor a teaspoon clattered in its saucer.

She’s pretending to be cross because we’re her family and friends who’ve all crowded in to try out the place where she’s now got a Saturday job, and we’re making her feel embarrassed.

Well, what are families and friends for!

Seriously, Hayley couldn’t be happier. She loves the idea of serving customers and using a till, and she also gets taught how to make a whole range of cakes and cookies – that’s right up her street, baking being her first love.

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Hayley was a bit worried at first; that she would mess up, maybe not hear instructions or take down customers’ orders wrongly, especially over the din of the coffee machines and coffee bean grinders. Or that she would maybe just be clumsy and drop everything, embarrass herself with all manner of clangers nothing to do with her ears!

“We talked in advance about what she would say to the proprietor about her hearing”

When Hayley went along to be interviewed for the job we talked in advance about what she would say to the proprietor about her hearing.

It’s a question of trying to achieve a balance – not wanting to draw attention to her deafness, which she hates doing, yet ensuring that people know she may need things repeating if she hasn’t quite heard, and that it’s helpful if she can see their face so that she can also lipread.

“When some people see a person with hearing aids they assume they can’t hear anything”

And there’s also a matter of reassurance. When some people see a person with hearing aids they assume they can’t hear anything and panic that they won’t know how to communicate with the deaf person. All very unnecessary.

So Hayley pointed out to him that she had hearing aids. ‘In case it shocks you if you suddenly notice later!’ she told him, in a light hearted way.

It took me aback actually, that she had the confidence to do it that way – good on her. She’s come a long way to be confident enough to make a joke to someone she’s never met before and in a fairly formal situation.

He played along with her joke, feigned shock, then quickly reassured her he’d keep it in mind and make sure she could hear him.

And so far it’s all been fine with no problems. Some of the equipment is noisy – most of us would be hard pushed to hear over it – but Hayley just has to work round it, waiting until it’s stopped before taking orders or asking for instructions.

Luckily the rest of the time there’s not too much background noise as the acoustics are pretty good – it’s vintage décor so it’s carpeted and wallpapered, which all helps.

“You can almost see her blossom by the day”

She’s doing really well, they seem pleased with her and she’s loving every minute of it. It’s done her a lot of good and really helped her self-esteem. You can almost see her blossom by the day.

And it’s shown me that Hayley’s future isn’t some far off event to be worried over or stressed about – it’s here now. And she’s doing great.

Hayley’s new job!

15-year old moderately deaf Hayley, who has autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), is excited about her new job. But Tiger Mother’s surprised she hasn’t told everyone she’s deaf.

Hayley is excited. I know this because she hasn’t stopped talking, at speeds of up to 110mph, for the last five minutes since she barrelled through the front door. It’s like being in a room with a hyperactive chimp who’s just downed a dozen large espressos.

That’ll be the new job then. She’s just started helping out at a nursery for a few hours every Wednesday after school.

Hayley adores kids, and they seem to love her, so she’s in her element there.

One thing surprised me, though. She said that when some of her young charges were curious as to what her hearing aids were, she told them they were earrings.

When I asked her why, she just shrugged. “Just didn’t want to get into explaining it all to them,” was all she’d say.

“Hayley’s never seemed self-conscious about her hearing aids”

It’s unusual for Hayley, because she has never seemed self-conscious about her hearing aids or her deafness. She’s always been comfortable talking about it if anyone asks, and has no problem asking teachers to repeat themselves if she can’t hear.

Naturally, we’ve always encouraged her to be accepting of her aids, and the audiologists are brilliant. Whenever she needs new ones, it’s like they’ve all the time in the world as they let her choose from a whole range of moulds and aids, different colours, glittery ones, pearlised finishes, all sorts.

They hold open a display case of the whole range while madam sits there ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’, trying to make up her mind like she’s choosing a ring at the jewellers. I’ve even had to model them on my ear before to help her decide, at the very accommodating audiologist’s suggestion.

Just recently, Hayley chose two swirled colours on her new mould, only possible, the audiologist told us, because they’re on good terms with their suppliers.

So Hayley’s always seemed pretty comfortable with it all.

“At 15 she’s become much more self-conscious”

I guess it’s her age that’s kicking in. At 15 she’s become much more self-conscious, especially about her appearance. It’s natural for a teenager.

So just like she’s overly conscious of her hair, makeup or clothes, I suppose there’s no reason to think her hearing aids would escape. After all, they’re part of her.

I suspect that, because the kids look up to her as a ‘teacher’– some call her ‘Miss’ which she thinks is very cool – she’s enjoying the sense of feeling like a proper grown up. She just doesn’t want to risk being seen as anything other
than an everyday, common or garden grown up in the children’s minds.

I’m certain that once she’s more secure in her role there and realises it won’t make any difference to her coveted status as a grown up, she’ll be happy to chat to them about it – at endless Hayley-style length!

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!