Deaf children’s deaf awareness

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.


5 thoughts on “Deaf children’s deaf awareness

  1. Hi Ian

    I would suggest bringing in deaf role models to talk to them as I am hearing of some deaf children saying they can’t achieve anything simply because they are deaf. Which, as you and I know, is b*****ks. It might be easier to get photos of deaf adults doing their jobs, and talk about them to the deaf children and what’s possible and why, address their concerns etc. I did this for some deaf children and it worked well. (Sorry, got my careers hat on here!)

    I didn’t know any deaf adults when I was a child. I wonder if the same goes today. So something like this would be very useful, I would think.

  2. I too have often thought that deaf people are the worst offenders for deaf awareness, perhaps because, as you suggest, very little is taught to them about deafness or that they have relatively little day-to-day experience with other deaf people.

    Similarly, as has been brought up in previous posts, deaf C&YP can grow up not understanding an audiogram or how to maintain their own hearing aids. Deaf C&YP need to be encouraged to be independent and self-regulate their own difficulties (e.g. asking for help or clarification) rather than being dependent on others. Openness in talking about their deafness with family and professionals would encourage them to reflect on their difficulties and how to overcome these, as well learning how to apply this to other deaf people.

    Perhaps it would be useful to have a section on this in literature for parents – how to encourage independence, reminding them that one day they will grow up into deaf adults who have to take charge of managing their own deafness…

  3. @Rosie : You bring up some very good points.

    Perhaps mentoring mentoring deaf teenagers into work is another idea. I helped Deafax to pilot this such a scheme with adults – it was (and still is) a needed service, but I suspect young deaf need it more.

  4. Hmmm… its important to appreciate why some deaf kids who are fluent in speech will easily forget their deaf peers who cannot lipread/hear them. This is something that I feel is getting quite common with advances in audiology; the camouflage of deafness per se.

    Further, there’s also the “stage effect” where I have met and seen many deaf young people choosing to speak rather than incorporate or use a bit of sign language because they are being watched by many. While this may be down to confidence in sign language or combining 2 languages, it can be rather frustrating in that it appears the presenter has disregarded those who cannot lipread/hear him/her; particularly when s/he does not make an effort to ensure those who are depending on lipreading can see.

    Is it deaf awareness? Or is it more of needing to consider one’s peers? I recall someone I worked with, a young deaf person of 17/18, who had signed all day with us in a workshop and then when a VIP arrived and gave a speech, he then asked a question – he held up his hand and when the VIP lookd at him, and he asked away in speech. There was no regard for the rest of us in the group, he simply assumed the interpreter would relay. While the interpreter did do this, it was the actual perceived disregard that was rude. I suspect this is owing to lack of good communication rules as well as lack of opportunity to practice. I also think that it would be better if the person had quickly said to the group, “Im going to speak, look at the interpreter” or something like that. Simple acknowledgement goes a long way.

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