Social & Emotional Support for Deaf Children, Young People & their Families
A story by West Scotland Deaf Children's Society
Our project provided 86 opportunities (including joint activities) bringing our deaf young people together. Events were held at Deaf Connections, the Adelphi Centre, St Roch’s and latterly, our new Youth Group home, the Wolfson Centre with other activities being held in a variety of other venues.
What Social & Emotional Support for Deaf Children, Young People & their Families did
Fun and stimulating outings and activities were successfully provided for all groups including T-Shirt making, drama, games, police visits where we tried out riot gear; a Burns day celebration, outings to Wonder World & Scotland Street School, quizzes, Jungle Rumble, Roller Stop, pool, table tennis, pantomimes and parties. All clubs came together for a Fun Day, Christmas Party and ceilidh! St Roch's hosted a boys’ night with football computer games & pizza; a girls’ night with beauty treatments and dancing; a pantomime outing and bowling, take away and refreshments during their 2-night life skills weekends.
Outings and activities were offered to and enjoyed by deaf children, young people and their families from all over the West of Scotland through our membership, audiology & social work departments, schools with a Hearing-Impaired Unit, Teachers of the Deaf, our website and social media pages.
As our young people enjoyed these events, their carers could have a much-needed break. Some, particularly those with young children, remain at the activity and build relationships with staff & other parents gaining a valuable support network. Some spend time with their other children, some shop, others enjoy some personal time while others use the opportunity to catch up with friends and family; and some just rest!
We again collaborated with Glasgow Life & this year organised visits to both the Kelvingrove Museum & the Glasgow Museums’ Resource Centre where our group enjoyed personal tours and themed craft activities. This was mutually beneficial to all concerned. Our children had a fantastic time and saw us continue our work helping to improve accessibility and raise deaf awareness, contributing to our goal of breaking down barriers for deaf people.
The Museums' appreciate the chance to observe the accessibility of their exhibits & service which in turn helps them plan for the future.
The project was again very successful, achieving all outcomes and targets addressing all the priority areas of Better Breaks. This was achieved despite having to cancel several activities because of bad weather, the closure of Deaf Connections, Covid 19 & the subsequent lockdown.
What West Scotland Deaf Children's Society has learned
The introduction of our Mini Saturday Club (0-5 yrs) was one which was sorely needed to help our families with younger children gain valuable support. This year we learned that what worked best for all concerned was to have both clubs (Sat Club 5-12 yrs) run together. This has been led by observing the children and their carers’. The children from both age ranges wanted to be together and were very curious and excited to share what they were doing.
The carers also wanted to be able to come together to ask questions, share challenges and build relationships. It was invaluable for them to see others who had already encountered the issues they were facing and to get valuable insight into how others had progressed. This was something we had not initially foreseen as an ongoing plan as we thought the difference in the age range would prove too much. However, we were wrong and it was led by the needs and wants of the children and their carers. The younger children enjoy the presence and attention of the older children and the older ones’ love helping and supporting the younger ones. It has been a great benefit to all concerned.
The involvement of our children and young people in all the clubs helping to develop ideas, activities and outings has been invaluable and one which they relish. It provides them with not only enjoyment of the activities but improves their confidence, self-worth and gives them greater ownership of their club. They know their ideas and opinions matter!
This year we have had to face several unforeseen challenges which affected the delivery of our service and resulted in some activities having to be cancelled or postponed. These include several storms & extreme weather conditions to hit the country over the past year; the Covid-19 pandemic; and also for us, sadly the closure of the venue where we held our Youth Group - Deaf Connections, which went into voluntary liquidation last year.
Trying to find an appropriate, suitable & alternative venue proved challenging especially in terms of the communication needs we must address. However, we were delighted to eventually succeed in doing just that with the Princes Trust Wolfson Centre in Glasgow and once the necessary permissions and checks were in place we enjoyed our first event in March. Unfortunately, we then had the lockdown situation and had to postpone the further activities planned. We look forward to enjoying our new location fully when the current situation is resolved and to the benefits both charities can gain from sharing ideas, skills and resources.
In the meantime, we are providing our clubs virtually via Zoom and for now that is three clubs each week for the Saturday Club (running Monday, Wednesday & Friday) & weekly for our Youth Group. This is proving to be quite costly but is essential to ensure that our children and their families continue to be supported. Everyone in the Country is finding the lockdown difficult in terms of isolation and loneliness and the effect that has on their mental health.
For most that can be aided by making phone calls to our family and friends. That is not the same for deaf children, deaf young people or deaf adults. They cannot communicate over the phone and not everyone is able to FaceTime or Skype. This is particularly difficult for those who rely on BSL to communicate and are missing their Teachers of the Deaf communicating with them using BSL, a skill many carers’ do not have.
Hearing parents with deaf young children who are BSL users often have limited BSL skills and are certainly not at the same level as their children. This means it is difficult, upsetting and frustrating for all concerned and is why we are prioritising the Zoom Clubs which always have two Interpreters during each activity to ensure full inclusion in everything we do.
How West Scotland Deaf Children's Society has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding is invaluable to us and allows us to continue to provide a varied programme of fun, stimulating and exciting activities and outings for our children and young people whilst simultaneously offering their carers’ the opportunity of a welcome break from their caring role. The effect on their happiness, confidence, independence, self-esteem and deaf identity cannot be overstated. Improved wellbeing and mental health is evident in all parties – our children, young people and their carers’. We are indebted to the Better Breaks Short Break Fund for their support of our charity.
Deaf children and 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 form lasting friendships and socialise in a more confident manner having a positive effect on their mental health.
We held a range of 77 fun, stimulating and rewarding activities and outings for our Clubs (Saturday Clubs, Youth Group & Joint events) in addition a further 5 were provided at St Roch's After School Club, two of which were enjoyed during Life Skills weekends. As ever, all activities and outings were planned with our children and young people to ensure that we catered to their needs and wants. The children could mix with others who understand their challenges and communication needs and results in happier, more confident young people with improved mental health and wellbeing.
Teacher of the Deaf, Department of Deaf Education at St Roch’s reports ‘At the request, of the pupils at St Roch’s we hosted a boys and girls evenings. Some, due to religion, culture or shy nature requested there was an opportunity for a night dedicated to boys and a separate evening for the girls. The boys were asked to plan their own evening. The 1st years were particularly excited about this as many have additional barriers and struggle with the school curriculum. They planned a game of football and arranged for a group of staff members to play against. This was great for confidence and added to pupil/staff relations. Some boys who did not wish to participate played games with other staff members. Afterwards, all pupils were able to pick a takeaway to be delivered and enjoyed a game of FIFA on their PlayStation.’ ‘The girls had a sillier experience where they went shopping for make-up, Jewell art for their faces and temporary tattoos. Girls were able to share their skills by offering nails, make-up and hair stations for all to enjoy. Pupils who did not wish to use make up used face masks and Jewell art.’ ’All pupils, especially S1, said they felt more comfortable, happy and confident in their new secondary environment with both staff and peers.’
Carers will be happier, less stressed and their children will be happier and more confident. Both children and carers will feel welcomed into a supportive community with whom they can form life-long friendships.
Carers of deaf children and young people attending any of the clubs have the opportunity to have a much-needed break from their caring role. There are also opportunities offered to spend time with staff and other carers sharing experiences and discussing challenges faced. Knowing their children are in a safe and secure environment with others who fully understand their needs allows them to relax and take some time for themselves. As a result, they can return rested, are happier, less stressed and have improved wellbeing.
The Life Skills weekends allowed carers of deaf and disabled children to have improved well- being. Carers of our deaf young people, some also with Autism and ADHD, stated how difficult it is for their children to be confident enough to leave their side, especially for overnight activities. Carers were delighted with how well their children managed to cope with a 2-night trip with friends. This in turn provided not only respite for the carers and thus improved wellbeing but the increase in confidence and wellbeing of their children gave them encouragement for the future. One of our parents reported: ‘My child, who struggled with socialising in the past had a great time. He mixed well with others, took part in all activities and helped support other children who may have been struggling away from their homes and family. We were delighted with his increased confidence, settled behaviour and caring manner. He is now progressing well both academically and socially and is much happier. We enjoyed a few days off and are delighted with his progress.’
We will provide respite & opportunities for carers to make new friends with other carers. This results in improved well-being and reduced stress as these opportunities allow them to have quality personal time to use as they wish and interaction with others from whom they can gain support.
The Saturday Clubs & Youth Group offer families many opportunities to have a regular break from their caring role and for some they want to use the opportunity to build friendships and support networks with the staff and other carers sharing experiences and challenges. Parents of our very young children appreciate the opportunity to be able to observe, interact and learn from the staff, other children and their carers gaining valuable support, knowledge, confidence and encouragement for the future.
E & F are parents of two children, one deaf and one hearing. ‘My children can participate in all activities as there is always an interpreter present and the tasks are suited to a wide range of ages. There are different activities each week which the children love. They especially love the museum trips and outings. The club has continued during lockdown via zoom meetings. Both my children like these and are extremely excited to see what is in the packs sent in the post. G & H get to see all their friends that they are missing, the zoom meetings provide a way of continuing some aspects of their normal weekly routine that they would otherwise miss out on. G counts down the days until the next club and asks throughout the day if it is time yet. As a parent, I enjoy talking to other parents of deaf children at the club, getting tips on all aspects of life with a deaf child. When G was born, I thought she wouldn’t be able to access ‘normal life’ and achieve the same goals as her hearing sibling but that changed when we went to the club. There are a few younger leaders who wear hearing aids/cochlear implants and for me it is nice to see how much they have achieved in life and what wonderful people they are. I didn’t know any Deaf adults until we attended the club, seeing the amazing work they all do. It has provided me with so much hope for G’s future. G had not met any other children with a hearing aid until she started attending the club. For her she gets a sense that she isn’t alone and that having hearing aids, although challenging at times, doesn’t stop her from participating in any of the activities. G & H say: ‘I love the Saturday Club and all the people as well. I love to play games and I like making a picture. It is really fun and we have lots and lots of games. I get to see lots and lots of people. I love seeing all the artefacts (museum trips). Everything about it! The new Zoom meetings we still get to see each other even when we aren’t together and we get to have fun with all the activities. Other carers have children who also have other additional needs and behavioural challenges. This can be exhausting and they relish the opportunity to have a welcome and much-needed break, confident in the knowledge that they are leaving their children with people who have the experience and ability to cope with their challenges and communication needs. Another told us: ‘This group means a great deal to our family. It helps us meet new people dealing with the same every day battles and we love the arts and crafts and activities and the outings how they don’t leave anyone out and everyone feels part of their wee family. I don’t know where we would be without them sometimes as I could ask them anything. Thanks for everything.’ Whichever option of how to spend that time is employed it allows carers a break from their caring role and an opportunity to recharge their batteries.
Carers will establish strong support networks with staff and other carers to help them sustain their caring role. They will be happy and confident in their role, knowing we are here for them when needed
The clubs afforded carers many opportunities to meet and socialise with other carers and to build strong support networks and bond over shared experiences with each other and the staff and volunteers. They know that we are always available to them for information and support whenever they need it. Many used the time to have a quality break from their caring role and enjoyed that time in many ways. Opportunities are also available to spend time with their children in a safe and supportive environment. The children are happy and enjoy the interaction with each other. Confidence, self-esteem and independence all improve and this impacts on the whole family allowing carers to feel better supported and able to sustain their caring role.
A & B are parents of a deaf 6-year-old and a hearing 4-year-old who regularly attend the Saturday Clubs. ‘Our daughter was diagnosed following a new born hearing screening test and we moved to South Lanarkshire when she was about 16 months old, and were linked in with West Scotland Deaf Children Society fairly quickly following our move….The club has been brilliant for us. We felt so welcome from the beginning, the staff are great with the kids and it is brilliant hearing and seeing how well the older deaf young people are doing. This was very reassuring as a parent who didn’t know what the future had in store. I think it’s safe to say we are regular attenders! It’s a highlight of the week both for our children and for us. C benefits massively from spending time with other children and young adults with hearing aids and cochlear implants. I think it is especially important as there are no other children in her school with hearing loss. It really normalises things for her. D also loves it and I think My husband and I benefit massively from the community of support that being involved has afforded us. The people we have met through these groups are great friends and it is so helpful to know people who are at different stages in their journey. We hope we can be a support to people the way people have supported us. It’s been great to have this support continuing over the Covid 19 restrictions too. I was sceptical about Zoom for a club with children with communication needs, but it all works surprisingly well. I think that is down to the hard work and dedication of the staff. I hope that we will be able to link in with the supports and fun times offered for a long time to come – maybe C & D will be Saturday Club helpers in the future. Thank you for everything you do!’
Service providers will demonstrate a greater understanding of the needs of our children on return visits with their staff being more aware of how to interact with and support deaf children.
Once again, we continued to work with many other organisations and service providers to ensure a better understanding of the needs of the deaf community and the accessibility of their service. This is borne out in the strong relationships we have established with amongst others, the Odeon Braehead who have now welcomed us on several occasions; and Glasgow Life Museum staff who organised two events for us and continue to build a programme of activities in a variety of places for our children and young people to enjoy
The relationships we have built with the Odeon Braehead staff have created a greater understanding of the accessibility needs of those who are deaf. Not only have the staff benefited from the deaf awareness provided, they are currently trying to create a new system whereby our children and their families will be able to request that a film is captioned, via an app. This is a work in progress which would make an enormous difference & better inclusion in this mainstream leisure activity to the deaf community and if successful could be rolled out throughout the country. This sadly is on hold because of the current closure of all cinemas due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Likewise, the relationships we have with the Glasgow Life Museum staff has brought ongoing benefits and opportunities. The staff at the riverside Museum are currently developing their first deaf led exhibit and consulting on how this can best be achieved.
Service providers will demonstrate a greater understanding of the needs of our children on return visits and carers will be happier, less stressed and their children will be happier and more confident. All will feel included, welcomed, understood and valued.
As deaf ourselves and or, parents or close relatives of deaf young people, working with families and their deaf and disabled children and young people, we have been able to share our knowledge and practice with families, their relatives, other organisations and service providers alike. We learn from each other and help them to understand and clearly see the benefits provision of appropriate, accessible short breaks can have for all concerned. The diverse range and makeup of the families we support, allows us unique insight into the need for many different approaches and an understanding of the different short breaks required. We strive to address the needs of the many and varied children, young people and families we represent and to help others understand these differing needs.
Carers S & T are both profoundly deaf BSL users and have a recently diagnosed profoundly deaf 2 yr old. Carer S said ‘I recently joined West Scotland Deaf Children Society as my daughter is profoundly deaf, she has two hearing aids. She comes from a deaf family. I joined the club so that she can see other deaf children and make friends. The club has been a place where I can go with my daughter and feel part of a group. People that run the club are able to meet the communication needs of my daughter and I feel happy to leave her to have a bit of independence.’ West Scotland Deaf Children Society Family Support Officer, herself profoundly deaf, has a Cochlear Implant and who communicates in both speech and BSL says: ‘As the family support officer for West Scotland Deaf Children Society I bring my daughter along to the Saturday Club. It’s a great opportunity for her as I feel that she can see other deaf children and learn about deafness as she is a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults). She loves attending the club and meeting new friends. During the club the parents have the opportunity to speak and share experiences with each other and develop friendships out with the club building strong support networks.’