The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

Emotional Well-Being of Deaf Children Conference, Huddersfield

BATOD (North) hosted a thought-provoking and well-attended conference at the Deighton Centre, Huddersfield, in July. Matters of the emotional well-being of deaf children and young people were explored.

The conference welcomed Julie Glynn, Specialist Senior Educational Psychologist from Lancs; Francis Taylor, a Teacher Counsellor from the Lancs Education Inclusion Service; Claire Sheridan from Cochlear Europe; Hilary Sutherland and colleagues from NDCS and Ann Underwood (BATOD).

Julie Glynn was the first speaker. She has a background in working with vulnerable children and her main focus today was attachment and how it may impact on deaf children. She led an impassioned and thought-provoking session.

Julie led the group through definitions of attachment and emphasised that shared language and experience were a major part of forming attachment. The issue of shared language can pose problems to a deaf child. The group was given an interesting and concise tour round the history of attachment.

Patterns of attachment were highlighted and key areas, such as the need of very young children to see their mother, hear her footsteps and feel her proximity could lead to a 'clingy' child if unfulfilled. A deaf child is able to see mother, but depending on a number of factors, including, the child’s level of deafness and when the child is known to be deaf, level of attunement could be lowered. Julie described Primary Education being based on children being securely attached, although 65% of children are securely attached whilst 35% of children are insecurely attached.

Julie outlined the need to give deaf children an unconditional positive role by being aware of some of these aspects:

  • facial expression
  • vocal expression
  • turn-taking
  • control.

Francis Taylor spoke next. He invited the group to be interactive. He reflected on his varied career in education and upon how he viewed the complexity of children’s needs has changed, reflecting the changes in society. He trained as a psychotherapist after a school-based career, and shared some of this philosophy with the group. The main points were that:

  • our development mainly springs from our relationship with others
  • it is about a client learning about themselves
  • intuition is actively encouraged and used
  • outside events matter.

The implications for peripatetic teachers are that relationships are being built up with staff and children during time-limited visits ie not daily. Yet, it is important to 'connect' with children. This is not 'just chatting' and is a necessary use of time.

Francis posed the question “What does a well-functioning adult look like?” In order to avoid 'mess', you need to get into one so that you know how to deal with it and avoid one! The importance of the use of intuition was highlighted and:

  • motivation
  • empathy
  • self-awareness
  • self-regulation
  • social awareness.
all contribute to sorting out a messy situation. Using names and asking for permission to act is important (Is it okay for me to look at your work?)

Claire Sheridan outlined the social skills work in which she is engaged with deaf teenagers and offered a practical session on changing behaviours and making them stick. There are three main aims to the programme:

  • recognition of deafness/loss in one’s life
  • understanding of the impact
  • developing the attitudes, skills and confidence to live more successfully with deafness.

The sessions cover:

  • the reality of living with deafness
  • deafness and stress (relaxation)
  • personal difficult communication situations
  • setting personal goals.

Strategies are explored through role play and the sessions take participants out of their comfort zone, with group support, to find acceptable working solutions.

The programme is called Sound Around and is adapted with reference to “Hearing and Listening Skills Programme” (Louise Getty and Raymond Hetu, Montreal University). Interested parties should contact Claire at Cochlear Europe.

The final presentation was led by Hilary Sutherland, who outlined the Deaf Role Model Project which is being funded until 2009. The aims of the project are to:

  • introduce families, including deaf children to deaf professionals
  • offer weekends away, youth club and home visits
  • work in schools and colleges (up to the age of 18)
  • encourage questions about deafness
  • offer resources.

The University of Manchester is to evaluate the project, which currently involves 47 trained deaf role models around the UK, who have different experiences and are selected for their positive attitude and successes. Training for role models include:

  • listening skills
  • child protection
  • how to tell your story

Hilary asked the question “So, why is the project necessary?” There are more deaf children in mainstream education than ever, who may have questions about their deaf identity. Fiona McTague, was one of the project’s role models who shared her story, experiences of growing up deaf and her approach to a family session. The evaluations of this important project are awaited. The day gave delegates food for thought before a well-deserved summer break.

Clare Armitage
Co-ordinator for Pre-School and Primary Peripatetic Teams Wakefield Service for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children
July 2008