Posted by Ian Noon on February 7, 2012
Sorry, I didn’t do a blog yesterday, my chicken was ill.
If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, then clearly you haven’t yet watched the BBC3 documentary, Deaf Teens: Hearing World, nor been aware of how a sequence involving a notetaker explaining she couldn’t support a deaf student for a whole 2 hours because her chicken was ill exploded onto the deaf community’s consciousness. Charlie Swinbourne’s blog explains how this quickly went viral, with a Facebook group attracting 1000 members in less than 24 hours and tweets abound using the #deafteens hashtag.
How did it pick up so much attention? Well, frankly it’s the most ridiculous (and hilarious) excuse I’ve ever come across for communication support failing to come through. Secondly, behind every brilliant joke is a regrettable knowing truth. In this case, that knowing truth is that deaf young people are rarely in control of their communication support at college and universities and too often are left to fend for themselves. The sequence hit a real nerve.
On the programme, this was the deaf teen’s first day at university and somehow they still managed to cock up (no pun intended) her communication support by not checking whether her notetaker could stay for the full 2 hours. Not exactly an auspicious start. In a further epic fail, another student on the programme at a different university on her first week was forced to lipread a lecturer in a dark room. My own experiences at university weren’t much better – I had to arrange my own provision and my “communication support” were often other students trying to make a quick buck. It also took around 9 months for my council to sort out my Disabled Students Allowance.
I’m sure there are a lot of good intentions out there. But a lot needs to change before deaf young people can be confident they’ll get the help they need at colleges and universities, without having to rely on the good health of chickens or other random occurrences.
The documentary, by the way, was brilliant and must-see viewing for anyone wanting to understand the experiences of deaf young people.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: access, BBC, deaf awareness, Deaf Teens, deaf young people, disability, Facebook, Hearing World, my chicken is ill, notetakers, twitter | 6 Comments »
Posted by Ian Noon on May 6, 2011
Image courtesy of NDCS
Deaf Awareness Week will be over at the end of this weekend for another year . Sadness, indeed. How was it for you? I think any opportunity to shout out about the simple things that can be done to include and involve deaf people is a good thing. With that in mind, here’s my fifth and final personal deaf awareness tip.
5. Don’t be scared to ask.
I won’t be offended. I probably won’t mind. Yes, go ahead and ask me about my deafness and how I communicate.
I’m often surprised people don’t. Do I look fierce? I may be increasingly grumpy with age but I’m not Gordon Brown, I don’t stab people with pens or call them a bigot behind their back. I’m always happy to talk about myself and my experiences as a deaf person. Frankly, I can’t think of many things more interesting. So go ahead and ask me what helps me understand what’s being said and how I prefer to get my voice across. It’s nice and I appreciate it. It’s better than having impossible conversations, trying to stumble on, hoping for the best before finally discovering that we weren’t actually talking about Chewbacca from Star Wars.
It’s also better than making assumptions about a deaf person’s communication approach straight-off. As a child, I didn’t sign, and would always be confused and irritated when people just started signing to me, without also speaking, before checking that I actually signed myself.
This is not to say that communication isn’t a two-way responsibility. It’s obviously important for deaf people themselves to take charge of their communication and proactively explain to other people what works for them. But many deaf children are not particularly confident in doing so, either because of their age or because they haven’t been empowered to be assertive about their deafness. So my fifth and final deaf awareness tip of the week is: don’t be scared to ask. Get down to a deaf child’s level and ask them to explain to you what communication approach works for them – sign? speech? combination? flags? drums? Make sure they know that they can stop you and ask you to do something in a different way. Check and refine your communication approach as you go.
And that’s it from me. Don’t forget that these are just my own deaf awareness tips that are most important to me – the National Deaf Children’s Society have something more official. And you can also check out a poster done by Welsh deaf pupils last year.
Finally, remember, deaf awareness is for life, not just for one week in May!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: communication, deaf awareness, Deaf Awareness Week, deaf children, National Deaf Children's Society, NDCS, tips | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Ian Noon on May 18, 2010
Image courtesy of NDCS
I thought I would share a little anecdote from last weekend where I was busy volunteering at a National Deaf Children’s Society “Getting Ahead” training weekend in Epping Forest. As always, it was great to meet some deaf youngsters and see them in action learning how to develop their confidence, think about their future and pick up new skills. They all seemed to have a great time, despite the cold turkey some felt from having to go without their mobiles for much of the weekend…
Anyhow, during the weekend, the teenagers were doing some team building activities with the centre staff, who had clearly not met many deaf children before. One instructor went up to one teenager, who communicated orally and was not “obviously” deaf. Here’s how their conversation went:
Instructor: “So this is a group that’s half hearing, half deaf then?”
Teenager: “No, we’re all deaf.”
Instructor: “You’re deaf?”
Teeanger: “Yes, I’m deaf. I talk but I’m still deaf.”
It could have been a very awkward conversation but the teenager defused it brilliantly, whilst also giving some impromptu deaf awareness training to the instructors. But what made it quite a nice moment for me was that when I first met the teenager, I expected him to be like myself when I was his age – very oral and, in a way, denying and “pretending” not be deaf. Give him a few days at a NDCS weekend, he’s proudly claiming an identity as deaf and addressing it openly, honestly and confidently.
A nice little demonstration of what I think are one of the benefits of NDCS events for deaf children and young people.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Deaf, deaf awareness, event, Getting Ahead, identity, National Deaf Children's Society, NDCS | 3 Comments »
Posted by Ian Noon on March 19, 2010
I’ve been doing a lot of musing recently. Earlier in the week, I mused on the definition of deafness and what impact this might have. I’ve also been musing on the deaf awareness of deaf children.
My musing was triggered by an NDCS weekend where I had a very enjoyable time with a bunch of young deaf cheeky little monkeys / rascals (delete as appropriate). At the fringes, I spent some time observing how the deaf children interacted with each other, and I was struck by how often basic deaf awareness rules were forgotten – like facing each other when talking. Children will obviously forget the rules when they’re having fun, but it still struck me as slightly ironic that deaf children might be some of the worse offenders when it comes to deaf awareness.
90% of deaf babies are born to hearing families with no experience of deafness, and around 85% of deaf children attend mainstream schools – so a fairly large portion of deaf children may rarely meet other deaf children until they go to something like a NDCS weekend.
I think it’s often a useful learning experience for the deaf rascals to meet other deaf rascals for precisely this reason – to learn more about who they are and how to communicate with each other. But it did make me wonder if more needs to be done to educate deaf children about deafness? And if so, how best to do this?
What do you think? As always, good to hear your thoughts.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: deaf awareness, deaf children, events, NDCS | 5 Comments »
Posted by Ian Noon on November 30, 2009
Image courtesy of Guardian website
Yesterday, I was in Brighton encouraging a group of deaf children and young people to rebel and rise up against the system. At least that’s what I thought I was doing when I signed up to a NDCS Grafitti Day. Sadly, no governments were brought crashing down, but it was still an exciting day nonetheless.
This was one of a range of NDCS’s events to bring deaf young people together – many of whom go to mainstream schools and are the only deaf person they know – and have fun at the same time. The young people spent the day creating funky designs and then using some spray paint cans to graffiti it onto some blank Primark t-shirts. I am sure there will be some deaf young people strutting some funky stuff today at schools.
I was volunteering at the event to make sure everyone was having fun and also to act as a deaf role model. As a campaigns officer, it’s also always a good opportunity to ask some probing questions and develop intelligence on what deaf young people are thinking and what the word on the street is.
By the end of the afternoon, I had concluded that Joe seems to be the most favoured candidate to win X Factor by some distance.
But also, more seriously, that there are a wide range of things that deaf young people want to see change. One of the themes that came out quite strongly at this event was deaf awareness by friends and teachers. One teenager said that she was so frustrated once by a teacher who couldn’t seem to remember basic tips on deaf awareness that she left the classroom and made a formal complaint. She remarked that other teachers seemed to constantly forget how to use a microphone.
Another wanted to see more done to raise deaf awareness in hearing children, and suggested the creation of a new website specifically aimed at children, to complement the new NDCS Buzz website for deaf children and young people. Despite only being 11 years old, she had written a short but impressive article for the Newsround presspack website all about her desire for people to be more deaf aware.
All in all, it was an impressive and inspiring bunch of deaf children and young people. Something tells me that maybe they will get to change the system after all.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brighton, deaf awareness, deaf children, Eve, NDCS event, Newsround | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Ian Noon on August 11, 2009
Last week, I blogged about the first of two interim reports from the Lamb inquiry into parental confidence in the SEN system. The second one looked at an issue which NDCS has been pestering the Government about for ages – the deaf awareness of Ofsted inspectors.
The pestering commenced last summer when we published our Must do better! report into the barriers holding deaf children back at school. In it, we called for a stronger focus on deafness at Ofsted, pointing out that if inspections of provision for deaf children are not conducted with the necessary rigour, underpinned by good awareness and expertise in deafness, Ofsted cannot play an effective role in driving up standards for deaf children. If the line sounds rehearsed, then it’s because it’s something I’ve been saying with alarming regularity since then.
For example, earlier this year, we asked Glenda Jackson MP to table a PQ about it which elicited an interesting reply from Ofsted. We followed this by briefing the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee on this issue. John Heppell MP directly challenged the Head of Ofsted on the issue. And more recently, we sent a submission to the Lamb inquiry highlighting some of the examples we’d come across of Ofsted inspectors being deaf unaware.
All of this has culminated in the Lamb inquiry proposing that a) Ofsted inspectors should be specifically required to report on provision for children with special educational needs in all school reports and b) that inspectors should have more disability awareness training. The Government has already accepted these recommendations.
I’m not sure NDCS can take all of the credit for this, but I think we’ve been a leading figure in putting the issue on the agenda. If anything, we deserve an award for refusing to shut up about it. And now we’ve got a great result which should result in big improvements in the way Ofsted do inspections.
What do you think? Do you think it will have a positive impact? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: deaf awareness, deaf children, Glenda Jackson, inspections, John Heppell, Lamb Inquiry, Ofsted | 3 Comments »
Posted by Ian Noon on August 20, 2008
I go where the work takes me. It would be nice if these places were Barcelona or Florence but as I’m the NDCS campaigns officer, yesterday, work took me to Newbury in Berkshire.
Anyhow, the reason I was in Newbury was to meet a young deaf person called Laura (who actually lives in Dorset – a long story). As part of our quest to become a more child-centred organisation, Laura has been recruited to help us with our campaigns work in the future (which you’ll be hearing more about in future blogs) so I went to learn more about her. Immediately, I could see that she would make an excellent role model and spokesperson for deaf children – very intelligent and articulate and very much demonstrates the art of the possible. That deaf children can achieve as well as their hearing peers and prosper if they are given the right support.
I learnt a bit more about her background and we talked for a bit about things that gone less well. She reminded me about something I used to get annoyed about – teachers not being deaf aware. Like me, Laura has had some excellent teachers who’ve gone out of their way to support her. But, also like me, Laura has also had some really patronising teachers who don’t have a clue.
Like the teacher…who…talks…really…slowly…like…you…are…a…five…year…old…or…a…complete dumbo…
Frankly, I would be mortified when anyone spoke like this to me when I was growing up. Now if anyone tries it, I tell them to stop being so silly and to speak normally. I may even slap them if I think I can get away with it. But for a child, it’s not always easy to challenge your teacher and tell them that it’s not necessary to talk so slowly or explain that it really doesn’t help. I imagine that many deaf children suffer the embarassment of being spoken to so patronisingly in the classroom in front of their peers in silence.
Then you have the teachers who just haven’t had the deaf awareness training or they’ve forgotten it. They forget that deaf children lipread and that you need to face them if you’re speaking. They put on DVDs that don’t have subtitles. They tell deaf children off for being lazy when the child is exhausted from having to lipread all day and is struggling to concentate.
This is not an attack on teachers (though I do think, like in any industry, there are some rubbish ones out there and I don’t think anyone should shy away from that). Our campaign report on education calls for improved teacher training so that all teachers working with deaf children have a good understanding of how to work with deaf children effectively. We also call for whole-school training whenever a deaf child enrols at a new school, everyone in the school gets refresher training. I’d also personally like to see deaf children empowered and be invited to give their feedback on teachers and whether they are suitably deaf aware. I don’t get the impression this really happens very much at the moment.
Anyhow, look out for more of Laura soon!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: deaf awareness, deaf children, education, NDCS, teachers | Leave a Comment »