Hi, my name is Katie, I live in Norfolk and I have a profoundly deaf son called Zavier.
Zavier will be six next month and up until this point he has been in mainstream education. What makes Zavier different from many deaf children his age is that he has no amplification and communicates solely via BSL.
After six tiring years of paper work and almost constant battling, myself and my family have decided to uproot our entire lives and move to Doncaster in order to allow Zavier the opportunity to attend a deaf school.
The problem I have found is the way that professionals use measures of attainment when it comes to deaf children.
Although Zavier’s attainment falls bellow the national expected average across the board, professionals are very quick to observe that the criteria used to measure attainment is not suitable in the assessment of deaf children.
They use this as their get out of jail free card, claiming that his attainment is fine despite the statistics which prove otherwise.
Their acknowledgment that the system is flawed is in itself completely maddening for the parents of deaf children, who can see that those in a position to change these unfair systems choose instead to ignore them, and use them to excuse the lack of service offered to aid deaf children.
Furthermore, while they spend all their time bleating on about attainment, they completely ignore the more important issues at hand. In the case of Zavier, those are deaf identity and culture.
These two things are what will potentially shape his future, giving him self confidence and a firm grounding. However, these things are rarely acknowledged.
Last week I attended an EHCP review, with the aim of making an application to Doncaster school for the deaf. At this meeting, Zaviers EHCP coordinator said to me “it is a waste of my time and money to make the application.”
A waste? My sons wellbeing is a waste of her time?! She wanted to pass the buck on to Doncaster County Council and for us to wait to move to make the application.
That potentially could mean Zavier being out of education for months! Or, I could apply for him to board at the school. They were perfectly happy to apply on the basis that Zavier aged just 6 would be boarding hundreds of miles away from his family and at no point during any of this discussion did it occur to anyone that actually…. I have feelings! Zavier has feelings!
I wonder what it would do to is mental health down the line to feel abandoned by his family because he is deaf?
It’s almost as if we are being punished for choosing not to implant him. For choosing to allow him to be who he is. For choosing not to put him through unnecessary surgery putting his life at risk.
The current system appears to me like some perverse game of pass the parcel where a grenade is being passed from service to service, professional to professional and no one wants the music to stop and the grenade to go off which would involve substantial paperwork and funding.
I will finish by saying that it is my firm belief that deafness is a culture to be celebrated not a problem to be fixed. I think society should be given the opportunity to see deafness for the beautiful culture it is rather than being brainwashed into the belief that it is a calamity.
Katie Raworth is 31 years old. She was born in Glasgow but has lived in Norfolk from age 6. She has 3 children, one of whom is Deaf. In the future she aspires to work as a psychologist with deaf children or a psychological journalist in order to raise awareness regarding the psychological impacts of society on deaf people.
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