Thursday, 14 February 2019

Deaf children: A lost generation?



New research has found deaf children are falling a whole grade behind their hearing peers at GCSE level, research finds it will take 21 years for deaf children to catch up with their peers Ann Jilling shares her fears as a parent to a deaf 12 year-old boy 

Ann is constantly anxious that her son, Daniel, will fall behind the rest of his classmates. Unlike many other parents, this isn’t just her wanting the best for her child – it’s because he was diagnosed as deaf in 2006. These children have been called the lost generation by researchers. 

‘Constant vigilance’ Ms Jillings said the reality of being a parent of a deaf child meant there is a constant vigilance around their education. She said she was always worried about whether her son was keeping up with his friends and making the progress he needed to. “At the time you’re told your child is deaf, the biggest fear you have is really how is that going to affect their lifelong opportunities, their education and their future,”  

“Really, that sort of worry never really goes away; it’s a sort of underlying anxiety. “I think all parents of deaf children would all report the same thing.” Daniel, 12, is a user of British Sign Language in his classrooms (Photo: Ann Jillings) At the same time, seeing the statistics in front of her was galling. “When you read the statistics in black and white, it does make you quite fearful for the future.” She said observing service cuts across the country and a drop in specialist teachers for deaf children has led her to think the “gap is widening, not getting smaller”. 


Perhaps linked to this response on social media, regarding a recent parental demand for £6,000 to learn BSL for their deaf child, that suggests BSL is holding up parity too?

#1  "This item has been discussed at length via dedicated deaf only sites. There are pros and distinct cons about these parental demands. One area feels charging parents to attain the ability to communicate with their deaf children is against their human right, practically no LA we know of has ever agreed to pay for that. They suggest there are a number of BSL classes in Gwent and near where these people live, but they are usually 2hr a week 6-month duration, (the cost used to be a nominal £40). 

On a practical level the child currently does NOT have the wherewithal to understand BSL at that age, and, there are no deaf schools in South Wales the child can attend where BSL is the language solely used to educate them, the nearest being Bristol, and less than 5 deaf children in Wales go there, and they are at the more extreme level of deafness with additional needs. The issue may be later on parents using sign and the child not comfortable with it. Free flow sign usage demands inclusion away from hearing people, it works best with other deaf they become a community this way. 

There aren't as we are aware any immersive BSL schools in England, i.e. BSL being used as a sole means of communication in education because inclusive policies ensure the deaf child gets the same education as a hearing child would, this is called 'mainstreaming'. It's not ideal there is a conflict of language and grammar used that confuse the child, BSL and English grammar is different, and the system is not sorted, but it was widely felt deaf schools were adding to the problems deaf faced, and not helping them. 

Wales shut them all down. In most part, parents welcome the children being included with their peers, same schools with siblings, instead of being sent off to boarding schools in the middle of nowhere, then after that, having considerable issue re-aligning with family and siblings and areas after, they became part of a deaf world with little interaction with hearing. integration/mainstreaming is to address that. Parents usually want the best for their child they don't want their child limited if they can help it. BSL education is catch 22, deaf love it, but hearing will go on without them and that's the problem, advance is limited for life. 

The BEST deaf school in the UK, is the Mary Hare Grammar school, but, that is a school dedicated NOT to sign usage but with considerable emphasis on oral/lip reading approaches as they feel this enables the deaf student far better at adulthood, takes away most need for support, and enhances more independence, but deaf culture supporters hate it! One rather suspects the parents in seeking advice to help their deaf child may be listening to the wrong people. What school will do, is determine properly what works best for the child, and perhaps that will NOT be what the hearing parent thinks is the best now. 

It comes down to ability, in the end, some are better signing some are better lip-reading some comfortable with both and many who simply do not sign at all. The basic reality is access, the deaf don't have it, and it is viewed as an issue with jobs health etc as the cost is amid the highest for any disabled area in the UK. We just read it needs for a deaf adult to stay in a job additional support fees of near £60K a year obviously the system is looking to not pay those costs and deterring sign use too. Practicality suggests total sign reliance if it can be addressed should be. There are after all alternatives."

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