THE BLOG

A Boy's First Conversation at 15 - Isolation and Loneliness in Deaf Education!

03/12/2014 18:36 GMT | Updated 02/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Right now there are more than 10million people In the UK with some form of hearing loss - that's one in six people - a pretty high statistic!

I've been involved in the deaf community now for over 10 years.

My dad lost his hearing very suddenly when I was 14 so I saw first-hand what a huge affect it has on a family. All of a sudden words like 'loop systems', 'hearing aids' and 'subtitles' were very much part of my everyday vocabulary.

Had that not have happened, I think I can safely say my knowledge and understanding of deafness would be minimal.

I recently watched a beautiful Unreported World documentary on Channel 4.

The film followed a young boy from Uganda named Patrick, who was taught to sign at the age of fifteen by a local sign language teacher.

Apart from tacit gestures at home with his family this was Patrick's first taste of communication - at 15 years old!

Watch a clip below:

Patrick's case may seem extreme - but the isolation he experienced sadly isn't all that rare - in fact amongst deaf children, isolation is extremely prevalent.

Look at our education system as an example.

The last twenty years has seen the closure of many deaf schools worldwide, mainly in the name of cost-cutting.

This has left only a handful of active deaf schools in existence.

As a committed advocate for raising deaf awareness, I can appreciate the positives that total inclusion could bring IF the support provided in mainstream schools was up to scratch.

Sadly this isn't the case.

There are simply no positives in hundreds of skilled teachers losing their jobs and deaf children being forced to join mainstream schools, where their communication needs are not being adequately met.

Right now when a deaf child attends a mainstream school they are very often the only deaf child In the school.

Of course, this can't be helped, but recent studies show that this is significantly contributing to feelings of isolation, depression and low self esteem in deaf students.

Being a teenager is tough enough, without being the only deaf teenager in the school, unable to join in class discussions or raise your hand and ask a question, missing at least fifty percent of what the teacher is saying, having only one specially trained teacher dropping in once every week or two and being expected to catch up to a adequate level.

This is not a blanket statement - I expect each school to have varied levels of support but the fact remains that studies from 2013 state that only 43% of students achieved A-C grades at GCSE.

Please check out Cathy Hefferman's article in the Guardian as she explains the importance of specialised deaf teachers.

So regardless of what might be best for the educational purse strings or the upward fight for deaf awareness, what should be absolutely paramount are the students that are being affected.

If attending a mainstream school negatively impacts on the academic performances and social adaptation of the students, then it has to be our fundamental duty to ensure that this is addressed quickly and sufficiently.

By continuing to ignore the decreasing grades, we are allowing the education system to repeatedly fail deaf children - and it's avoidable.

I was involved in the national deaf children societies 'Stolen Futures' campaign, which saw huge success and was the first time issues facing deaf children were discussed comprehensively in Parliament.

Check out what happened:

http://ndcs.org.uk/stolenfutures