Emily’s Story: How different things may have been

Emily Meacher, Campaigns Support Assistant

Emily Meacher, Campaigns Support Assistant

“Go outside to the end of the playground and try and listen to what I am saying; to show everyone how it works!”

I reluctantly head outside, and turn the radio aid on, and my class teacher starts talking into the microphone.  Of course, I can’t hear her as the radio aid doesn’t do anything at all for me, let alone lip-read because the teacher is too far in the distance. The whole class peer out of the window staring at me in fascination of how the radio aid works. And this is the earliest memory I have of being at primary school.

I was only 7 years old, and of course was too young to express my embarrassment. I was the only deaf child in the school, and at the time I felt I was happy, and whenever people said ‘you were the only deaf child in school?!’ I was happy to say yes, and that it was pretty plain sailing for me.

But then as I got older, and started to make deaf friends, I realised that I just ‘put up with it.’ And that wasn’t good enough. I was too young to stand up for myself and say, ‘I want a Communication Support Worker’ or to say ‘I don’t understand.’

Often in class I was too shy to put up my hand, in case I misunderstood the teacher’s question. This had happened many times, and so it made me not want to shoot my hand up because I worried I would say the wrong thing. It wasn’t just in the classroom that I struggled at times; I often found school plays so boring, as when it came to singing, I just moved my mouth up and down to make it look like I was singing!

It wasn’t all that bad though, I met my best friend in year 5 who I am still best friends with to this day, and she helped me a lot. Thanks to her, I made lots of other friends. She helped bridge the gap between me and hearing children in school.

Emily

Emily, aged three

I went to Mary Hare School when I was 11, and that was the first time I realised I wasn’t the only deaf kid. And I felt I really belonged, as it felt so nice being able to communicate with everyone the way I knew how.  I have friends for life, and it made me the person I am today.

I worked at Roding School for two years as a Teaching Assistant (TA), which is a pretty amazing school. It is a mainstream primary school with 40 deaf children. I worked in a class with four deaf children, and they had a great Communication Support Worker in class. Their job is to empower deaf children, to give them a voice, to give them a deaf ‘identity’, to teach them to be assertive, to put their hand up and to say if they don’t understand. And I had to admit I felt a bit envious for them, as I didn’t have that.

I had a lot of support in primary school yes, thanks to the Teacher of the Deaf and TA but couldn’t help wonder how different things may have been if I had the confidence to speak up.

So if your deaf child starts in primary school, do find out what support they can receive, and tell them that they have a choice and don’t always assume they are doing ok if they don’t say anything.

I have just started working as a Campaigns Support Assistant for NDCS in the Policy and Campaigns Team, and I am really excited to get stuck in. I want to be a part of making a change in deaf children’s lives. The NDCS Campaigns Team do an amazing job for deaf children, and with your help, a small difference can go a long way.

Around the world with NDCS: campaigning for education internationally

NDCS Campaigns Blog - Suzanne Lagan, Deaf Child Worldwide

Suzanne Lagan, International Publications and Communications Coordinator, Deaf Child Worldwide.

Last time Deaf Child Worldwide (DCW) blogged we told you all about our work in Ecuador. This time we’d like to share with you how we’re campaigning to tackle the barriers that prevent young people in developing countries from going to school.

DCW and education
Despite the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015, there are still 57 million primary-aged children out of school, 19 million of whom have disabilities.

Many barriers exclude children with disabilities from education; you can read more about these here.

NDCS - MDG 2, education

So, DCW recently joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a multilateral partnership of nearly 60 developing countries, donor governments, international organizations, private sector, teachers, and civil society groups dedicated to ensuring all children receive a good quality education so that they can fulfil their potential.

The big win
GPE recently held an international conference in Brussels where it called on donors to financially reaffirm their commitment to achieving this goal. Their call to action was hugely successful:

  • Participants pledged more than US$28.5 billion new funding by 2018
  • The UK’s Department for International Development pledged up to £300 million to the GPE over the next four years, with Lynne Featherstone commenting “the UK is the biggest supporter of primary and lower secondary education in the developing world and our renewed commitment to the Global Partnership will help millions of children get the education they need.
  • Seven Calls to Action were agreed by delegates, including a commitment to “concrete targeted actions from actors at all levels… to turn inclusion [of children with disabilities] into a reality”.

NDCS is proud that DCW is part of such an exciting partnership and, if you would like to help us to create a world without barriers for deaf children, join our Campaigns Network today!

Arti’s story: Fighting every step of the way

Arti Patel

Arti Patel, Membership Assistant

In 1994, my parents made the biggest decision of my life. They decided I would have a bone anchored hearing aid (Baha). Today, I sit here with the biggest smile on my face and say it was the best decision they ever made for me.

I was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome and a moderate hearing loss. At 2 years old, after much pushing from my parents, I was diagnosed with a hearing loss and fitted with the behind-the-ear hearing aids. Although these worked well, they weren’t the best for me.  When I was fitted my Baha, my parents noticed a huge difference and they were very happy with the results.

Arti blog

Arti, aged two

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing. First they had to fight for me to get the Baha. Then after I started school, they had to push for my educational support. It was a fight to maintain the support I received during the later years of school such as a fab Teacher of the Deaf and to ensure that I had a Statement of Special Educational Need. It was one battle after another, but they never stopped believing in my ability and fought for me every step of the way.

I’m pleased to say all their efforts were worth it. Currently, I work as a Membership Assistant at NDCS and I couldn’t be happier. To be a part of a charity that helps to ensure all deaf children can reach their full potential fills me with gratitude. I’m often asked why I work for NDCS. My reply is simple. It fills me with great horror to see that some children are not getting the same opportunities as I did and I must be part of a team that does something to change this.

That’s why I joined the NDCS Campaigns Network. I get all the latest information about their campaigns and advice about how I can support their work and raise awareness. So, why not join me and make a difference for deaf young people?

3 changes to DSA that affect deaf young people

Freya Riddel

Freya Riddel, Education and Training Policy Advisor

The Government is proposing changes to the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) in England. This has been a valuable tool in enabling more students with disabilities to attend University and reach high academic attainment. The DSA has given deaf students the flexibility to purchase a support package personalised to their needs, so that they could effectively access and engage with the content and teaching of their course.

1) Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) will no longer fund non-specialist, non-medical help. This would include a laptop and manual note-taker. Instead, instead a greater responsibility will be placed on the universities themselves to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act. Universities will not receive any extra funding to fulfil these responsibilities.

2) Support for deaf students is not guaranteed. Relying on the Equality Act means that there is no guarantee that the University will provide the necessary support, and this support is likely to be inconsistent across different universities.

3) If the university refuses to provide support arguing that it is not ‘reasonable’, or the support is inadequate, there is no guidance as to how an individual could challenge this decision.

We have written more about these changes and our concerns on our website.

NDCS is calling on the government to drop these proposals until it carries out a full public consultation and impact assessment so that it can demonstrate that deaf and other disabled students will not be unfairly disadvantaged as a result. Help us campaign by joining our Campaigns Network today.

We would also like to hear of any experiences from deaf students currently receiving DSA – how important is it for you? What do you use it for? Let us know in the comments section below, or email campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

How can Local Government deliver for Deaf Children?

Reema Patel

Reema Patel, NDCS Trustee and newly-elected Barnet Councillor

As we take in the results of the local elections, campaign groups including deaf children, young people and parents will be considering how best to engage with local politicians and local political parties. We know that, despite deafness not being a learning disability, the attainment gap between deaf and children with no identified Special Educational Needs (SEN) is large – with a 28% difference in those who achieve 5 GCSEs between A*-C including English and Maths – and whilst over time this gap is narrowing, closing the gap remains one of the key priorities for local areas, schools and health providers.

There are, however, challenges. Local politicians may feel disempowered in an education system that has recently favoured greater independence for schools in the way they run and deliver services, and in a system where the impact of proposed changes to the SEN system have been less than clear. Whilst councillors may have every best intention to make an impact, it may not always be clear to them how best to do so.

So what are the most important steps that campaign groups, parents and children can take to close the gap between deaf children and non-deaf children?

1)    Reassure local politicians that there is something they can do

Local politicians should begin by gathering more information to find out exactly what the issues are in their area. What does the gap look like in their local area? What support already exists out there? In what areas is our local authority failing deaf children, and can we look at best practice elsewhere to improve the way we allocate our resources? How do we find the money to plug the gap? What powers do local authorities have to deal with these challenges?

2)    Provide evidence and solutions

As a campaigner myself, I know full well that it is often when local campaign groups are quick enough to take the initiative, to do research themselves and put forward concrete recommendations that the most effective kind of influencing happens. Parents getting in touch with local representatives, identifying problems that they have encountered first hand, sharing their story, and offering concrete solutions makes it very difficult for the representatives to say no.

3)    Stay ahead of the game

This week, we have a batch of brand new councillors who have never been local politicians before in a system that has changed a lot in recent years. For example, SEN reform – to be implemented later this year – presents great challenges as well as opportunities for local authorities and campaigners alike. Local authorities will be able to consider granting children personal budgets to meet their needs – balancing this with the need to allocate resources fairly in a world of dwindling resources, and they will also need to think about ways to make the most impact with less resource available. With a system such as this, a vocal, active parent-led campaign group could be very effective in securing improved outcomes and increased support for deaf children – and may well make a difference. Joining with other parents, as you can through the NDCS Campaigns Network, will amplify your voice going forward.

What local authorities can best do to support deaf children will vary depending on the needs of the child(ren) involved, the local area itself and what is already available in the local area – all in a rapidly changing local government and public sector landscape. Because of this, good local politicians will understand that part of their job is to make listening and responding to interested groups easier as well as building influence with stakeholders outside of local authorities in the health and schools sector, instead of adopting a ‘top-down’ approach and presumption of what is best for children without engagement.

It is a partnership with deaf children, their parents and advocates that will in the long-term enable local politicians to most effectively narrow and then close the attainment gap.

It’s Deaf Awareness Week – what can you do?

NDCS, Sam Aldridge

Sam Aldridge, Campaigns Assistant

This week we’re celebrating Deaf Awareness Week – 19th-25th May

Whether you have a few minutes or an hour there are lots of ways to get involved with Deaf Awareness Week. Have a look at a few of our suggestions below:

Read and share our 11 tips for communicating with a deaf child as a quick guide to general deaf awareness

Super dad Graham campaigns for deaf children

Graham

Graham Manfield, Parent Campaigner

One of the NDCS volunteer campaigners, Graham, talks about his experience of campaigning against cuts to services for deaf children. 

I sometimes wonder what life would be like if my daughter, Ellie, wasn’t deaf. Her older brother is hearing and we haven’t needed to intervene to ensure he succeeds in his education and has access to the same opportunities as his friends.

This simply isn’t the case for many deaf children. My experience over the last 12 years has taught me that I cannot assume that help will be provided, even where there is clear, unequivocal evidence that this is necessary.  We’ve been lucky to have support from some dedicated professionals, particularly a wonderful teacher of the deaf and access to really good speech therapy. Paradoxically, these are two of the areas which have proved most challenging.

Local Group Campaigning

Parents of deaf children can have a surprisingly loud voice, particularly for a cause which they are passionate about. Our deaf children’s society met with our council some years ago to make it clear we wanted the right support our children, particularly access to teachers of the deaf. It really shouldn’t have been necessary to go to the Local Government Ombudsman for a resolution but ultimately that’s what was needed to force the issue.

Ellie now attends a secondary school with a deaf centre in another London borough which is considering outsourcing much of its education services including the hearing impairment provision. Again, the local deaf children’s society and other groups have been very active in ensuring their voice is heard and their children do not miss out on support.

Parent representation

There are other ways for parents to get involved. I sit on a Children’s Hearing Services Working Group (CHSWG) and have just taken over the Chair of a second. They generally meet 3-4 times each year so it’s not time consuming but the benefits are enormous as parents can often provide valuable insight into practical issues that would otherwise not be recognised. National issues such as the current changes to law and guidance on disability affect our children so, like a lot of other parents, I made sure my MP understood how deaf children could be affected.

I’m acutely aware of the variable level of support available to deaf children and their families across the UK at a time of increasing pressure on councils struggling to deal with the impact of budgets cuts. It’s never been so important that parents make sure that ‘deaf kids matter’.

Get involved

To find out what’s happening in your area and what NDCS is doing nationally you can join the NDCS Campaigns Network.  You’ll be provided with easy to use resources to help you take action and get involved in campaigning against cuts to services for deaf children and young people.

You can follow Graham on twitter here.

You can follow NDCS here and join in the conversation using #StolenFutures