Social and Emotional Support for Deaf Children, Young People and their Families
A story by West Scotland Deaf Children's Society
Our project provides clubs with fun, stimulating, enjoyable and fully inclusive activities for deaf children and young people which improves their confidence, self esteem, mental health and well-being, whilst also providing a much needed break for their carers.
What Social and Emotional Support for Deaf Children, Young People and their Families did
Our project delivered 142 opportunities for 103 deaf children and young people to come together and have fun in a safe, stimulating environment where their physical, emotional and communication needs were catered for. We offered a wide variety of activities including arts and crafts, games, quizzes, team building challenges, Zumba, and yoga (our programme is created in consultation with the children/young people). 4 clubs were offered every week which catered to all ages. From these sessions, 169 carers were provided opportunities to socialise and create a support network with other carers and also had the opportunity to enjoy time away from their caring role.
The impact of this project cannot be overstated. It was a genuine privilege for our team to help deaf children, young people and their carers to improve their mental health and wellbeing and empower them to feel more confident, valued and respected. We pride ourselves on the fact that we developed a service and provisions which reflect all of the principles of the Better Breaks programme.
We would have loved to have returned to face-to-face clubs at an earlier date but were unable to do so under the Covid guidelines combined with the health problems of several children we support. It was in our best interest to continue with the Zoom clubs but we are now currently planning our first in-person session. We believe this will give carers an even more meaningful and effective break from their caring role.
We were delighted that we managed to help more people than previously thought and overall, we feel the past year has been a huge success. The feedback we have received has been fantastic and encouraged us to keep going. We are excited to continue to learn and develop our services to ensure we are always meeting the needs and wants of deaf children and their families.
What West Scotland Deaf Children's Society has learned
The main thing we have learned from delivering this project is how vital it is for many families. Many deaf children are lonely and isolated and in need of friends and a support network. This was made evident when we were calculating the number of children/young people we have supported and found a substantial increase in comparison to the target figure in the original application. We are now evaluating our plans for the future as we move on from the Covid crisis and back to normality to ensure the high demand for our services is met.
We have also learned about the importance of partnership working as a means of reaching more families. Our Family Support Officers have worked to strengthen relationships with Teachers of the Deaf, Audiology Departments and other organisations to ensure they are aware of our existence and our reputation. As a result, we have had numerous new families referred to us. Additionally, we learned the importance of self-promotion to ensure families most in need can get in touch and access our services. We have maintained a strong presence on social media and promoted our clubs through schools. The parents/carers we support have also been singing our praises to the carers they know.
How West Scotland Deaf Children's Society has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding has been essential in helping us to provide a lifeline for deaf children, young people and their carers. It has allowed us to continue working through difficult times and reach new families who are in desperate need of support. Many charities have had to close their doors or significantly reduce their services as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns but with Better Breaks support, we have been able to thrive and cater to the needs of many. This funding has strengthened our reputation and presence within the deaf community.
91 children will have had 65 opportunities to take part in fun activities where they will make lasting friendships.
We delivered 142 opportunities for children and young people to take part in fun, inclusive activities. These gave 103 children/young people the chance to make friends, build a support network, learn new skills and to improve their mental health and wellbeing. In addition, this has given 169 carers opportunities for respite and to seek support and guidance in their caring role.
Some of our shyest kids have really engaged with our Youth Group and their carers have told us how amazing it has been to see them come out of their shell and establish a peer group. Two young people in particular have become much more outgoing and involved. They start conversations, make jokes, help run sessions and even became shoulders of support for their other friends in the group when they've been having a hard time at school.
Carers will have had many opportunities to have respite from their caring role whilst their children attend the clubs.
Parents and carers were afforded up to 3 hours of respite every week, safe in the knowledge that their child/children were being looked after in an understanding, fun and inclusive environment. This allowed carers to have time for themselves where they could do other things like housework, make dinner, support other children with homework or simply enjoy quality 'me' time. Feedback from parents and carers highlighted how essential, appreciated and effective this respite was.
The parents of E had told us of their child's need for almost 24/7 supervision. She requires support to do most daily tasks and support with communicating with anyone outside their immediate family. This has meant that E has been unable to join any mainstream clubs. Our club is fully inclusive and meets all communication needs. E's parents are able to leave her under our supervision, knowing that she is being cared for, included and feels supported and valued. As a result of this, E's parents have had many opportunities to have a break from their caring role and spend quality time with their two other children and to get on with other daily tasks.
Strong support networks will be created amongst carers and staff. Opportunities for respite will mean less stress and increase their capability to continue in their caring role.
Running multiple clubs every week has meant that the friendships and bonds have grown stronger and stronger. Carers have become familiar faces with each other and interactions have been encouraged in a natural way. This has given carers access to people with shared experiences and many opportunities to interact with our trained and experienced staff. In addition, we encourage parents and carers to join our private Facebook group which also acts as a safe space to seek guidance and support. These chances for respite combined with the knowledge that there is a strong network of support in place for them has meant carers are empowered and able to thrive in their caring role.
Parents and Carers of those in our Saturday Club have been able to socialise and discuss important issues while we are caring for and entertaining their children. One mum in particular was struggling to ensure her child was being properly supported in school under Covid guidelines. Open plan classrooms, open windows, social distancing and face masks meant the child was struggling to learn and keep up with hearing peers. Another carer was able to advise who to speak to about getting additional support and a support plan in place. Our Family Support Officers were able to speak with the school management team to advise them as to how to improve the classroom environment.
Children and carers alike will be happier, less stressed and their children will likewise be happier, more confident and all will have a more positive outlook. All will feel welcomed into a supportive community in which they can form lifelong friendships and support networks.
Having smashed our target for the number of clubs provided, we learned just how important these lifelines are for all involved. The clubs have become essential in supporting deaf children, young people and their carers to maintain good mental health and wellbeing. We have seen the impact of our work firsthand - the increased confidence, improved self-esteem, pride in their deaf identity, carers are relaxed and happy. Feedback from parents and carers highlighted a very positive outlook for themselves in their caring role and for their child/young person.
V's parents were worried about their daughter's ability to socialise and noted her lack of friendships that weren't cousins or other relatives. With her deafness combined with other additional needs, V's carers made the decision to homeschool her which can heighten feeling of isolation and loneliness. After joining our club, V has become a happy, outgoing, bright and bubbly child who loves spending time with other deaf children. She has discovered her deaf identity, embraced and wears it like a badge of honour.
Additional project outcome
There will be a greater understanding of the needs of the deaf community and mainstream services will be more deaf aware and inclusive.
We had a very successful trip to the panto at Christmas. The staff at the theatre were keen to be able to communicate with everyone attending so staff and some of the children took the time to teach them deaf awareness trips and some basic signs like 'panto' and phrases like 'My name is...' This resulted in a very positive and inclusive experience for all and support any future trips for any deaf organisations or people in the deaf community.