Education12th November 2013

Deaf Education Limiting Life Choices

Research shows that deaf students achieve less at school.

by Sarah Lawrence

Let's be honest. Since I was a little girl, there have been some significant improvements in respect of knowledge, understanding and service provision for deaf people. It's far from perfect obviously, but I think it's important to acknowledge that in some aspects of life, there has been improvement. Nevertheless, as I woke this morning, I had a question immediately coming into my mind; What gives you most concern for deaf people today?

The answer, well, by that I mean my answer, is education.

I think education troubles me most, primarily because it is the point at which a young person's life is often defined. In respect of deaf children, the word defined can frequently be replaced with the word. Opportunities are stifled at the start of a young child's life, through inadequate education, and those deaf people who have gone on to be successful, have more often than not, had to fight twice, or even three times harder, than anyone else.

The problem as I see it, is that the education offered to a deaf child varies, quite often significantly so. It ranges from having a place in mainstream education with a supporter, through to a placement in a special needs unit, because a deaf child is sometimes assumed to have learning difficulties because they fell behind their peers during the early years.

Whilst I see the education of young deaf people as being a lottery, the other issue is the extent to which parents can support, supplement and help their child's education, as happens in most families. For deaf children born into a deaf family, this is less of an issue because communication does not present a problem, but as in my case, my parents knew nothing about bringing up a deaf child, and it was hard, very hard. The emotional strain for the parents in huge, and whilst there was, and still is, some pockets of support, that support is underpinned locally by personal opinion, budgets, stereotypes and discriminatory views. More often than not, it is wildly inadequate.

Personally, I think it's about time this issue was given the priority it has long deserved. Austere times are not responsible for deaf children and their families being let down every day. It is the ignorance and arrogance of the power brokers; who are responsible. Finding the right solution, should be driven by academic research and the un-biased proposal of an educational framework that is fit for purpose and gives every deaf child the opportunity to flourish.

Subsequent proposals for change should be mandated for delivery at a local level, with fairness for all secured across all parts of the UK, and not left to the whims and vagaries of local government.

I recognise that education of our deaf children represents a huge elephant of a problem, but with coordination, collaboration, and commitment, this cannot be beyond us.

I consider educational discrimination to be such a significant issue, that all deaf led charities and organisations should make it their priority, and with a collective mindset, effective and passionate lobbying, and reasoned debate, we might actually be able to make a difference. A real difference!

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Education

12th November 2013