Deaf News: NDCS research shows children with moderate deafness left behind at school

Posted on May 8, 2015


Nearly half of all children with mild and moderate deafness are falling behind in mainstream school, new research published by The National Deaf Children’s Society during Deaf Awareness Week shows.

Poor acoustics, lack of staff awareness and late diagnosis are contributing to a significant impact on the 20,000 UK children with mild and moderate deafness throughout the school day.

The National Deaf Children’s Society is now calling on the Government to ensure that services are sufficiently resourced to provide the vital support needed to ensure these children don’t get left behind unnecessarily.

The new research shows that:

  • nearly half (47%) of parents reported that their child was behind their age compared with their classmates, with 35% performing in line with their peers and 18% advanced for their age; and
  • poor acoustics, background noise and understanding speech at a distance were cited by 69% of parents as challenges faced by their child at school; with a third (33%) blaming a lack of staff awareness.

The report is based on interviews with parents of children with mild and moderate deafness and Teachers of the Deaf from across the UK. The report’s authors found that the terms “mild” and “moderate” do not adequately reflect the impact described by parents and professionals.

Unless properly supported, children with a mild loss (up to 40 decibels), can miss between 25% and 50% of what the teacher says in class. This can lead to them falling behind in their learning, in particular in spoken language, reading, writing and spelling.

For children with a moderate loss (up to 70 decibels), the amount missed is over 50% and the challenges even greater.

A high proportion of parents reported that their child’s mild to moderate deafness had a ‘major impact’ on a range of educational activities that span the school day.

Nearly half (48%) reported a major impact on their child’s participation in assembly; 47% on outdoor activity including sport and PE; 47% on group work; and 41% during class.

However the effect of mild to moderate deafness on one-to-one teaching was considerably less, with just 13% of parents reporting a major impact.  These findings suggest that specialist, one-to-one teaching away from group sessions is just as vital for children with a mild or moderate hearing loss as it is for other deaf children.

The National Deaf Children’s Society is now calling for:

  • parents and young people to have access to more information about the potential impact of mild and moderate hearing loss and the support available;
  • teachers to have greater awareness of mild and moderate hearing loss and the steps they can take to minimise its impact; and
  • local authorities to ensure that services are sufficiently resourced to provide the necessary support for children with mild and moderate hearing loss.

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society said:

“Deafness is not a learning disability so there is no reason why deaf children shouldn’t achieve the same results as their hearing classmates. Over half of children with a mild or moderate hearing loss fail to achieve five good GCSEs, compared to 30% of other children. This attainment gap is simply unacceptable.

“Mild and moderate deafness can often be overlooked because of a perception that it is not a serious condition or that children are ‘coping’ at school. But often these children are nodding their way through life without really understanding what is being said and missing out on vital early development. No child should have to struggle at school because of misconceptions about the impact of mild or moderate deafness.”

Elizabeth Lowe, mother of 13-year-old Billy, said:

“It wasn’t until Billy started junior school that doctors identified mild hearing loss and fitted hearing aids – it made a massive difference. But I felt so angry and let down – he’d been through infants unable to hear properly and learned to lip-read instinctively.

“Billy sometimes complained that teachers sat him at the back of the class, making it difficult for him to hear.  On a couple of occasions he handed in essays that weren’t correct because he didn’t fully hear the instructions, but the teacher didn’t realise that his hearing loss was standing in his way.”

The report Marks Deaf Awareness Week which runs from 4 – 10 May. National Deaf Children’s Society is also busting a series of deaf myths and inviting supporters to take part in a Big Cake Bake to raise vital funds for services for deaf children and their families. Find out more

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