A deaf schoolboy from Tilbrook will be appearing on BBC One’s Countryfile Winter Diaries later this month to show how his assistance dog has transformed his life.
Oscar Williamson, aged 15, has been profoundly deaf since birth. Growing up unable to hear, Oscar was not able to easily communicate with people and as a result found it difficult to form friendships.
This led to him feeling constantly isolated and lonely and caused his parents, Hilary and Paul, to worry that he would never be able to make friends or form any kind of proper relationships.
Oscar’s deafness also meant that he was not able to build the confidence that other children can and meant that he had little independence, even in his own home. He had to rely more heavily on his parents for things that other children would not.
Oscar’s parents feared that if his confidence and independence remained so low, his quality of life in the future would be affected and he would struggle with any kind of further education, career and an independent adult life.
It was at this point that they decided Oscar might benefit from an assistance dog, and they contacted Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, the charity that trains dogs to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds and provide constant emotional support and companionship.
In February 2017, Oscar was matched with a hearing dog – a Labrador called Rosie – who has since transformed his life. Rosie is highly trained to alert Oscar to sounds, including the smoke alarm, alarm clock, his mobile phone going off, and his mum calling him. This makes day-to-day life much easier for Oscar.
Rosie also provides emotional support and companionship, which has dramatically increased Oscar’s confidence and has allowed him to be more independent – both inside and outside of the home. The change in Oscar since Rosie arrived has meant that his parents no longer fear for his future.
To see first-hand how Rosie has changed Oscar’s life, Countryfile Winter Diaries presenter Margherita Taylor visited the Williamson family in their home. She spoke to Oscar and his mum Hilary and saw first-hand some of the sound alerts that Rosie is trained to carry out.
Oscar said: “The experience of filming with Countryfile was brilliant. We were very proud of how well Rosie behaved for filming and I’m looking forward to people seeing what a difference dogs like her can make. Rosie means so much to me and I’m very happy to be able to share this with more people.”
As well as filming at the Williamson’s home, the Countryfile Winter Diaries team also visited one of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People’s Cambridgeshire puppy training volunteers, Lynn Jenkins, who lives in Ramsey St Marys.
Lynn gives up her time to look after and train puppies in her home that will go on to change the lives of deaf people. Lynn is currently training a cocker spaniel called Wade, and the episode sees Margherita Taylor meeting Lynn and Wade to find out more about what goes in to training these highly skilled assistance dogs.
Louisa Moriarty, Oscar and Rosie’s partnership instructor at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, said: “The change that Rosie has made to Oscar’s life is phenomenal. It can be incredibly isolating growing up deaf and things that come naturally to many children, such as making friends at school, can be extremely difficult for those that aren’t able to communicate easily with other people.
“Oscar’s story shows the huge impact these dogs have on people’s lives and we were delighted that Margherita Taylor was able to visit Oscar, Rosie and their lovely family to see first-hand how his life has been transformed by his dog.
“Viewers will also get to meet hearing dog-in-training, Wade, and our wonderful volunteer Lynn, who kindly gives up her time to help the charity. We receive no government funding and our volunteers in Cambridgeshire are crucial to us being able to continue training dogs like Rosie, so we are excited for people to see the kind of fantastic work they put in.”
Oscar and Rosie’s episode airs on BBC One at 9.15am on Thursday, February 21.
Further information about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People can be found at www.hearingdogs.org.uk.