Social and Emotional Support for Deaf Children and their Families
A story by West Scotland Deaf Children's Society
Our project provided opportunities to bring our deaf young people together through a series of activities and events.
These events were mostly held at Deaf Connections and the Adelphi Centre with other activities held in a variety of other locations. St Roch’s After School Club enjoyed a 3 night-trip to Staffordshire & Alton Towers.
What Social and Emotional Support for Deaf Children and their Families did
Our staff and volunteers have successfully provided 29 outings and activities for the Saturday Club (including crafts, drama, games, challenge days, fruit sculpting, superheroes, signed stories, outings to Our Dynamic Earth and the IMAX cinema), 21 outings and activities for the Youth Group (including cyber safety, a games night, cake decorating, bingo, a challenge night, ice-skating, a quiz night, pantomime and parties) and 23 outings and activities for our younger children.
All the clubs came together for a Family Fun Day in November and a Christmas Party in December. St Roch's had an amazing 3-night-stay in Staffordshire with a 2-day visit to Alton Towers. These activities and outings were offered to and enjoyed by deaf children, young people and their families from all over the West of Scotland. We reached them through our membership, audiology departments, social work departments, schools with a Hearing Impaired Unit and were posted on our website and social media pages.
When the children/young people were enjoying these events, carers were able to enjoy a much needed break. They use the time in various ways such as spending time with their other children, shopping, enjoying some personal time, while other carers met for coffee and were able to share advice and experiences with each other.
We collaborated with the British Deaf Association and the Riverside Museum to organise two visits to the museum where our group enjoyed a personal tour and group activities. This was mutually beneficial to all concerned. Our children had a great day out and we helped to improve accessibility and deaf awareness thus contributing to our goal of breaking down barriers for deaf people.
The project was very successful, achieving all outcomes and targets we set whilst also addressing all of the priority areas of Better Breaks. This was achieved despite having to cancel 3 activities as a result of bad weather and bereavements.
Feedback from the families tells us that the events and activities are enjoyed by and important to the whole family and make a big difference to the lives of their children.
What West Scotland Deaf Children's Society has learned
The introduction of the Mini Saturday Club for families with 0 - 5 year olds has given us the confirmation we anticipated, that this too is a vital service. There had been concern that sometimes participation could be too early in their journey and that instead of being a source of strength, it could actually be a bit overwhelming. We have seen the opposite effect.
The children love being together and seeing others with hearing aids, cochlear implants or BSL users very quickly becomes their norm. Siblings too can see that there are other children just like their brother or sister. Parents and carers absolutely gain. They have access to advice, support and friendship with people who truly understand their situation and from this everyone benefits.
Children develop a strong deaf identity, their confidence and wellbeing improves and their carers have opportunities to form a support group and are better able to meet the challenges ahead.
Developing & strengthening our partnership work with others in our field & those who provide leisure activities and services continues to reap rewards. We all learn from each other and best utilise our skills to provide the best available & inclusive service & opportunities for our families.
We have met several challenges this year in the form of staff departures, new recruits and bereavements. As a small team this could have proved to be very difficult. However, with the determination of our staff and the support of our trustees, volunteers and families, we were able to continue to provide the social and emotional support needed, and at the high standard expected from us.
We believe this is as a result of the unique nature of our charity, in that everyone involved is either the parent, sibling, closely related to a deaf child & or is themselves deaf. We learned that this is our strength; the experience, dedication and commitment of everyone involved with the charity to ensure that we continue to break down barriers for all deaf children, young people, adults and their families wherever they exist.
How West Scotland Deaf Children's Society has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding allows us to continue to provide a wide and varied range of activities and opportunities for deaf children & young people of all ages. This is vital to their improved wellbeing, confidence and mental health. At the same time it is providing their carers with a break from their caring role. The addition of the Mini Saturday Club has allowed us to cater to the needs of those with very young children from the point of diagnosis where desired. We are extremely grateful to the Better Breaks Short Break Fund for continuing to support us.
Disabled deaf children & young people, some also with other additional needs, will have more opportunities to have fun, develop friendships and do activities they enjoy. The children will be happier, more confident and will socialise more easily.
In total we organised 73 activities and outings for our three clubs that we operate and St Roch's provided a trip to Alton Towers. These activities were enjoyed enormously by all of our children and young people and made them more confident in socialising with others.
A is a profoundly deaf teenager who regularly attends the Youth Group and feels she gets so much out of it that she now volunteers at activities for our younger children to ensure they feel they benefit in the same way. "Youth Club is very important to me because it’s been giving me friendships and something for me to go to and to be excited about. Also it’s a huge part of my life as well. I’ve been attending the club since I was 13 years old!"
Carers will be less stressed and happier. Their children will be happier, more confident and both children and carers will feel welcomed into a supportive community with whom they can form lifelong friendships.
Carers were given opportunities to enjoy a much needed rest from their caring role and also opportunities to enjoy time with their children in a safe and understanding environment. This led to carers feeling less stressed, happier and more confident in continuing their caring role knowing their children's needs are being met. Deaf children and young people have shown strong signs of growth and development and it is a genuine pleasure to see how happy they are and how much they enjoy the events and activities we provide. This gain in confidence and happiness has a positive effect on the whole family.
B is Mum to a profoundly deaf young man and has benefited from the respite provided by her son's attendance at first the Saturday Club and now the Youth Group. She uses the time to meet up with other parents & carers and has formed both a peer group and friendships with people who understand the challenges families face. She said that the break she gets, when her son is at the club, is the only one she has as she works while he is at school. She appreciates all that the clubs offer to both parents & children "Thank you so much for an amazing night at youth club. A big thank you to all who helped my son. He thoroughly enjoyed it. He's still talking about it. Thank you so much for giving our kids these amazing opportunities."
Carers will have many respite opportunities and chances to make new friends with other families. As a result, they will have improved wellbeing and reduced stress. Parents/carers of the children attending the trip will be able to enjoy a significant, meaningful break from their caring role.
Carers who attended our events had the opportunity to meet other carers and bond over their shared experiences. It also allowed for families who are new to the caring role to get advice and much needed support. The trip to Alton Towers assisted Carers to become more confident in allowing their children to go away for a residential stay. This confidence grew as we prepared for the trip and was rewarded by the success that it was. Carers were also more confident in their ability to step away from their caring role.
The trip to Alton Towers assisted parents to become more confident in allowing their children to go away for a residential stay. A significant number of the pupils are young and have other additional needs who find it difficult to leave their parents but also some parents struggle to let go of their children. A residential opportunity gives the carers a much needed break but can also cause a lot of stress and anxiety. We overcame this by meeting with carers to alleviate concerns. Small lodges with adult supervision eased any communication concerns and any additional assistance/medication could be provided discreetly. Whilst away, parents were able to communicate with both their children and staff by text allowing them to check in. We also sent photographs to show how much fun they were having. Upon return, carers were delighted with how their children got on. Parents had a few days break and gained some confidence in their children's abilities. Something they can now continue to build on.
Carers will build support networks with staff and other carers to help them sustain their caring role. Carers will take the opportunity of the 4 day break to relax and enjoy some quality time away from their caring role.
Carers were given many opportunities to meet with other carers and share their advice and experiences where appropriate. They are already aware that staff are available to talk and support them whenever they need it but we have encouraged them to build their own networks. This has been particularly true at our Saturday Club. In a relaxed and understanding environment, their children can play under the supervision of staff and volunteers whilst they utilise this time to talk to each other, air any concerns and ask any questions they have. The Carers' shared experiences make them ideal for supporting and encouraging each other to thrive in their caring role.
D is a new face at our Saturday Club. Her daughter was recently diagnosed with a hearing loss and this is the family's first experience of deafness. We invited D along to the club as it is a good way to meet other people who are going through a similar experience or have already done so. D and her family are now regular attendees and find the club to be a great opportunity to ask any questions the family has, make new friends and introduce their other hearing child to deaf children. The whole family feel reassured and supported.
Our families come from all over the West of Scotland, often they are unable to meet with friends out of school time. This can lead to a feeling of isolation. The clubs and activities we will provide give lots of opportunities to socialise with other deaf children where communication is easy.
We provided 73 opportunities for our deaf children and young people to meet up and socialise as well as a 3 night trip to Alton Towers. Each activity was carefully planned in advance ensuring any service providers were aware that the children were deaf, enabling them to benefit from some 'Deaf Awareness' training to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all thus resulting in a more inclusive experience for all concerned.
E is a deaf young man with ASD who often spends time by himself. He was encouraged to participate in all activities but also allowed time to spend by himself when required. It was noted that he spent more time with others than he previously would and allowed himself to 'come out of his comfort zone' by joining in and socialising with others. He also felt confident enough to let staff know when he felt he needed some time away from the group and spent this with staff. This allowed for positive, trusting relationships to be built with both staff and peers. The various activities have seen our young people have both a fantastic time and given them more confidence for the future.
Closer relationships will be formed between West Scotland Deaf Children Society and service providers, third sector colleagues and carers. Clear evidence of a greater understanding of the needs of our children on return visits with staff being more aware of how to interact with deaf children.
We worked more closely on several events with amongst others, our colleagues at the British Deaf Association; National Deaf Children's Society, Cineworld, Odeon Theatres, Ambassador Theatre Group and the Glasgow Life Museum staff. This allowed us to ensure that activities were planned with the needs of our deaf young people in the forefront of everyone's minds. A greater understanding of these needs ensures that not only everyone becomes more deaf aware; everyone involved enjoys the activity and feels respected and included. The impact this has on our carers and young people cannot be underestimated. They feel happier, valued and more confident as a result.
A strong working relationship has been established with the Glasgow Life Museums. Along with colleagues from the British Deaf Association, we have enjoyed several private tours and specially designed activities at the Riverside Museum specifically catering to the needs of our young people and the age range attending. One of our Saturday Club mums tells us the impact the Saturday Club and these outings have had on their family "I take my son to the Saturday Club and it's really good because he's been mixing with other deaf children, some of whom also have hearing siblings who are made to feel welcome at all activities. We have been going now for a couple of months and I've noticed his confidence has grown. He has definitely gained more confidence! He has done lots of activities such as painting, drawing and making things." "They also do different themes such as creating Easter hats. One day we had a superhero theme where they made masks and it was really good. They also have activities after crafts which he really enjoys and it's his favourite part. The staff at West Scotland Deaf Children Society are really helpful as anytime I have any problems or want any advice, they have given us a lot of support. It has definitely helped me and my son. It is a place where we can go and try and mix with other parents and children in a relaxed atmosphere." " We go every week. They also do trips which is really good as sometimes I do not feel confident taking my son out to public places. For example, West Scotland Deaf Children Society set up a visit to the Riverside Museum which gave us the opportunity to go along. It has been really good and we are hoping to go along on more trips. Saturday Club has been a massive thing for us and we'll continue to go every week."