Education services fail deaf children

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New research by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has revealed that education services are failing children who have multiple disabilities, including deafness.

The Complex Needs; Complex Challenges report is the biggest study into the care and support of these children who make up approximately 10% of deaf children.

The research from NDCS and the University of Manchester discovered deaf children with ACN are being denied support from a specialist teacher of the deaf and a lack of deaf awareness among teaching staff.  The report, which is the largest of its kind, described some professionals as ‘overwhelmed by the complexity of needs’ and others as treating deafness as a minor condition that can be addressed later in the child’s life.

NDCS Chief Executive, Susan Daniels, said: “We are alarmed by the findings of this research which shows education services are not geared up to support children who are deaf and have other complex needs. 

“As the number of children with complex needs rises, due to increasing survival rates of children who are born prematurely or suffer a severe illness, it is becoming even more important for services to drastically improve how they support these families. We urge education professionals to work with parents to address shortfalls so that deaf children receive the support and care they need.”

Report author Dr Wendy McCracken, Senior Lecturer in Deaf Education at the University of Manchester, said: “This research is important because there are growing numbers of children who are deaf with additional complex needs, yet they are the group most frequently excluded from research studies.” 

“From the testimonies of the parents interviewed, the common theme that emerged was the huge difference that supportive services make to their child’s life, but that all too often these services are not put in place quickly enough, or not at all.”

The report comes ahead of the Government’s special educational needs (SEN) Green Paper, due to be published this month, and urges professionals to give deaf children with ACN access to the full range of services appropriate to their needs, and rigorous, timely initial assessments. 

It is estimated 40% of the total population of deaf children have some kind of additional disability.  NDCS estimates that 10% of deaf children, approximately 4,500, in the UK have Additional Complex Needs (ACN).

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