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!