A new award winning film ‘The Silent Child’ has highlighted the need for better provision in mainstream education for children who are deaf or partially hearing.
The film is about a four year old girl who is deaf. She is withdrawn and unable to enjoy connecting with others in a mainstream hearing world until a social worker teaches her how to communicate in other ways.
The story is based on real life events and illustrates how disabling deafness can be, particularly with regard to education. A disability that often remains invisible and rarely has adequate support in a mainstream classroom setting. Whereas disabled wheelchair users, for example, whose needs may be more visibly apparent, are more commonly catered for.
An article in the press earlier this year reported the problem. Because deafness is not acknowledged as a learning difficulty, the education system doesn’t cater adequately for the needs of children who cannot hear. And as funding is increasingly cut from services across education and schools the fear is that the situation could only become worse.
There are specialist schools for the deaf across the country, but as was highlighted in another report recently, these are often not an option for those who live very rurally. Some children already spend hours journeying to special schools, which can extend their day by several hours.
The advent of the film has highlighted the problems faced by deaf children in accessing mainstream education. And the filmmakers raised a hope for sign language to be recognised as a valid language and taught across the globe.
It raises the question; should Sign language be taught in schools? Or perhaps there should be a signing teacher in every school? Or an option for all youngsters to learn signing as they learn other languages?
This issue has been discussed before. And the release of the film has brought new strength to a petition for British Sign Language to be taught in schools. Or at least be there as a learning option. But it looks unlikely to happen.
As with all parts of the curriculum, both funds and the inspiration to overhaul it or introduce new subjects are limited. And although it seems many young people would welcome the opportunity to learn Sign Language in school, it’s not likely to be available across the country.
However, the underlying issue remains; that whatever a child’s needs are it is still the remit of those in charge of our educational system, schools, and teachers to cater for them as promised by our politicians.
It seems like deaf or partially hearing children are part of the group of many other youngsters for whom this does not happen. Like with any special need, parents should continue to badger their local politicians to keep these needs at the forefront of their political awareness and planning.
Find more support at the National Deaf Children’s Society.