Stacey Betts: Having a deaf daughter taught me how important Deaf Awareness is

Posted on December 3, 2017

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My daughter is Deaf. She was born hearing but antibiotics administered when she was a few weeks old slowly took her hearing and she was officially diagnosed as Deaf at 18 months old.

We were devastated and Megan was on dialysis at the time, so this was just something else we knew she was going to have to contend with. We were sent home from the hospital being told we had a profoundly Deaf baby and no advice on how we would deal this.

Before having Megan we didn’t have any Deaf awareness, we didn’t know anyone who was Deaf and as such it wasn’t something that had affected our day to day lives.

As a parent of a Deaf child we went through a real learning curve. Our family adapted how we communicate, we had to for Megan, and myself, her Dad, Brother, Auntie and Nan all went to sign classes when she was first diagnosed. Despite the health issues she faced and her hearing loss Megan remained a bubbly, expressive and passionate child who was extremely daring, she still is at 19!

I think that there is a lot that society could do better to help Deaf children and Deaf Awareness Week is a good time to talk about it. For example, it would be great to see everyone having sessions on deaf awareness at school or work and yes, in an ideal world everyone would learn British Sign Language (BSL).

For me, it is very frustrating to see people ignore Megan, and try to speak through me. Some people don’t acknowledge her as they think she won’t understand and therefore she becomes invisible.

We’ve seen doctors who look at the floor instead of giving her eye contact so she can see their lips, and she is often faced with people talking all at once so she can’t follow any one person, and there’s also people who talk to her like she’s a child.

Basic Deaf Awareness training would give people the skills to help them communicate with a Deaf person. Simple things like facing a Deaf person and looking at them when you are talking, being aware that they may be lip reading what you are saying, not shouting at them (that really doesn’t help at all), and not holding other conversations at the same time.

Megan has a cochlear implant and has learned to speak, but because of this people don’t consider that she still struggles to understand what is being said, and if she can’t really focus in on their voice she can’t always work out what they are saying.

This can cause so many problems as people presume that because she can speak she can hear them clearly. Deaf Awareness is so important and can make people consider how they communicate and avoid a lot of unnecessarily awkward situations.

We couldn’t be more proud of Megan and the young woman she has become. She is a student at Communication Specialist College Doncaster (where I also work). She is studying to work with children and she has completed a number of work placements and will be starting an apprenticeship later this year.

My career path grew around Megan and I am now Assistant Principal at the Specialist College that she attends. As you’d imagine I am extremely passionate about specialist education and feel that parents and children should be allowed to choose the provision they want and not be forced into mainstream schools.

We’ve seen first-hand that this is the right place for Megan as she has thrived, she has had and continues to have specialist support from staff who really understand the barriers deaf people face.

She has followed a curriculum which has been developed around her needs and requirements and she has been able to build on her independence skills along with learning how to manage money, and manage herself in the community. She was also supported to pass her driving theory which led to her passing her driving test.

It is thanks to a specialist education that she has also been given opportunities to develop her academic skills, with language broken down and delivered at a pace that she can follow. She has been supported through work experience, which can be very difficult when approaching places that do not communicate in the same way you do.

She is so looking forward to starting her apprenticeship and without all the support around her emotional and social needs this would never have been possible.

We are calling for people to take a little time this Deaf Awareness Week to learn a few basic signs, take on board the advice given for the best way to communicate with Deaf people and to consider the difference that this will make to the 11 million people in the UK who have some form of hearing loss. You never know that this might affect you or someone in your family.


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