Deaf children with additional needs

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

I was sent to York last week. Beats Coventry, I suppose. My reason for being drafted up north was so I could be a NDCS volunteer at an event and provide last minute additional support to a deaf young girl with autism. Whilst I’ve done one to one support before, this was the most challenging experience I’ve had yet. The girl had very limited language skills and was unwilling to engage with other children or with any of the activities. She also refused point blank to wear her hearing aids and had a tendency to sometimes suddenly run off. This made for excellent training for my half marathon in October. The girl literally seemed to live in her own little world. That said, she has a mischevious streak to her which always made me smile. Other children made the effort to engage with her and help her get used to the new environment. It was quite sad to see her go. I hope she enjoyed the event; it was definitely a rewarding experience for me at the end of it all.

The short time I spent with her was a stark reminder of the extra difficulties that children with additional needs face. Reliable figures are hard to come by but it is estimated that 40% of deaf children have additional needs. Some of these needs are incidental to their deafness – like speech and language delay. Other additional needs are obviously more severe and are more of a challenge to parents.

The feedback we hear from parents is that if there is a postcode lottery in the provision of support to deaf children, in many areas it is even harder to find a professional who is aware of the needs of children with complex and multiple needs and is able to provide tailored support. There are also known to be challenges in getting professionals from different teams to work together and provide a joined up service. And finally, there is the risk of ‘overshadowing’, where a professional focuses on one need only and pays less attention to other needs.

NDCS has a booklet for parents of children with additional needs which has much more information and advice on this issue.

The challenge for me as a campaigns officer is to not to forget deaf children with additional needs in our campaign work and literature, and to make sure that nobody falls through the gap – every deaf child matters, after all.


One thought on “Deaf children with additional needs

  1. Having an Autistic son, the issues I know are considerable. Apart from his autism he has two deaf parents ! However we always managed more communication than anyone else did including professionals in the field of Autism. This can get worse however and autistic children can advance/regress with no warning or any apparent reason. Communication is an issue with many autistics anyway, trying to teach them some sign language proves near impossible, basics at best and single word signs, never sentences/discussions. Then you were caught between the speech therapists (Mostly ignorant people about deaf communication we found), wanting deaf parents to cease sign because this added considerable to eductaional problems at school, your child they said, will end up acting like a deaf one. We had this day ONE and 14 years on is still much the same… We had tried to get the school to teach him some sign properly, if he saw it in school he would not perhaps be releuctant to use it more, and as his speech is near nil or at best he whispers all the time, unless he signs I told them he will have NO effective communication at all. It is ongoing,but mostly they won’t consider it, they tried picture cards and stuff I would consider pretty pointless, as my son does recognise most things anyway,he just has no communication to express that, I felt after 14 years utlising support and following pro advice it’s time now to reject it, on the basis it has not worked. This is of course a recipe for head-on collision with the support services and the LEA, what choice do I have ? Of course in a few years school will be over, then you are faced with more angst, as there is NO support system for children over 14 (Extra curricular), now where I am, let alone adult support. The deaf child would have had it a lot easier perhaps !

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