REAL LIFE: I can play piano beautifully '“ even though I'm deaf
Whether running across the rugby pitch at full pelt, tap dancing, or hammering out hits on the piano '“ there isn't much that nine-year-old Lewis Heaysman won't throw himself into with gusto.
Lewis Heaysman won’t throw himself into with gusto.
The youngster, from West Street, Portchester, dedicates himself 100 per cent to everything he puts his mind to and his hard work has paid off.
He can perform piano pieces as diverse as Beethoven’s Fur Elise, to the Rocky theme, Gonna Fly Now.
But what makes Lewis’ achievements even more remarkable, is that he is deaf.
The youngster has a rare condition called cookie bite hearing loss.
It means that he cannot hear the pitch at which people speak – he cannot hear at all.
But it was a long time before Lewis was diagnosed and could start realising his full potential.
His mum Emma, a 38-year-old nurse, explains: ‘My husband Paul and I knew from quite early on that something was wrong.
‘By the age of two he still hadn’t started to talk, unlike his little friends.
‘But he was really advanced in everything else – he could throw balls, he had excellent co-ordination.
‘He was eventually diagnosed with glue ear and we were told he would grow out of it.
‘We accepted that, and we waited, and were eventually told that the tubes that were blocked were now clear.’
By that point Lewis’ little sister Charlotte was getting bigger and overtaking Lewis in communication.
Emma says: ‘One day we found Lewis absolutely engrossed in watching the film Spider-Man.
‘Then we realised he was watching it in German and didn’t have a clue what they were saying!
‘It was then obvious that something was still very wrong.’
Frustrated at not being able to get to the bottom of it, the couple paid for a private consultation.
That’s when it was discovered that Lewis could not hear mid frequencies – the range that picks up the level at which people speak.
His parents say at times it was a lonely experience because they didn’t know anyone else who was deaf.
Dad Paul says: ‘Lewis had his hearing aids fitted the day before his fourth birthday.
‘And then it was as if someone had turned on a switch. He started to learn words and had to play catchup.
‘We read to him constantly and went through the phonetic alphabet.
‘He went to school being able to read. It was the only thing that had been holding him back.’
When Lewis started school he had to concentrate extra hard which left him exhausted by the end of the day.
But teachers at Wicor Primary School have worked hard with him and ensure he is in the right place to hear them.
And he is now thriving at school, on the sports pitch, and musically.
But Emma admits she wasn’t sure how Lewis would get on when he first asked to play the piano. She says: ‘I wondered how on earth he would do it, he’s deaf.’
He started by learning Crazy Frog and so impressed his parents they paid for lessons.
He can now wow people with performances of pieces from The Greatest Showman and even Titanic – which won him a place on a prestigious performing arts weekend.
The National Deaf Children’s Society invited the very best young deaf performers from across the country to collaborate in Raising the Bar, in Birmingham.
Lewis spent the weekend with dozens of other children honing their skills and developing their talents, before performing in front of proud friends and family.
Lewis was persuaded to join when he found out rugby star Ben Cohen was supporting the event.
‘He wasn’t up for it at first’, says Emma, ‘But as soon as he saw the video from Ben Cohen – an incredible rugby player who is also deaf –he recorded the piece, My Heart Will Go On.
‘He did it in one take and they thought it was great.’
Lewis says: ‘I felt very lucky to go there.
‘ I made lots of friends over the weekend – 12 altogether. Playing the piano makes me feel very happy. If I ever feel sad I just go to the piano and I don’t feel sad any more. I really like playing in front of people.
‘Being deaf does not ever hold me back. I just go for it.’
And Emma and Paul couldn’t be prouder parents.
Emma says: ‘Lewis is always full of beans, he never stops.
‘As well as piano and rugby, he plays football and has started playing guitar too. We are very proud of him.’
n To see a video of Lewis playing piano, go to portsmouth.co.uk
The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity for the UK’s 50,000 deaf children.
34 babies are born deaf every week in the UK.
More than 90 per cent have hearing parents, so independent expert support is a vital lifeline.
The National Deaf Children’s Society helps deaf children and young people by giving independent expert support to them and their families, and by working with professionals to overcome the barriers that hold deaf children back.
The charity says deafness is not a learning disability and deaf children can do anything other children can.
Raising the Bar is organised by Bryony Parkes. She says: ‘Deaf children can do anything hearing children can do, if given the right support from the start.
‘Raising the Bar is a testament to the talent of deaf children and young people.
‘Lewis has shown with his musical ability that he has the potential to achieve greatness in performing arts.’
Go to ndcs.org.uk
n Lewis also attends a fortnightly fun club at Portsmouth Deaf Centre with other deaf chidlren. For more details go to saturdaykidszone.com