‘Even the slightest bang could leave Maiya in a world of silence’: EastEnders star Rita Simons talks about her deaf daughter
At the end of yet another long and tiring day of filming, Rita Simons cherishes the happy chaos of the evening bathtime ritual. At home, as her boisterous twin daughters Maiya and Jaimee splash around in the water, she can shake off the dust – and inevitable trauma – of the EastEnders set and truly relax. There is only one complicating factor: communication.
Maiya is deaf and cannot wear her hearing aids in the bath. But while Rita and her husband have to raise their voices and make gestures to be understood, the other person in the room has no such problems. Jaimee – who has no hearing loss – can communicate to her sister without saying a word, such is their bond.
‘We all shout because with the acoustics in the bathroom Maiya can hear a bit,’ says Rita, 34. ‘But she can have her back to Jaimee and she seems to know what she’s saying – I might ask Jaimee to pass the shampoo, and without looking at me Maiya will pass it. She’ll then know when Jaimee is going to pass it back. They also have a funny private sign language that they use together.’
Speaking out about her daughter’s condition is rare for Rita, best known for her role as Roxy Mitchell in the BBC soap. It’s not because she is ashamed, but because she is determined that Maiya’s life should not be defined by her disability. Indeed, without prior knowledge it would be virtually impossible to guess which of the five-year-old twins is deaf, given Maiya’s perfect speech and tendency to burst into song at any moment.
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Pictures by David Poole
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