Supporting families with deaf children - coronavirus info for professionalsPublished Date: 23 Nov 2020
Information about coronavirus
We’ve produced a separate post for families and information for deaf young people about coronavirus – please do share these with the families you’re working with. This includes information about accessible information for deaf parents and deaf young people who use British Sign Language (BSL).
Face-to-face home visits from professionals, such as Teachers of the Deaf, can be an important source of support for many families, particularly in the early years. Whilst support can sometimes be provided remotely, this is not always the case and may not always be the most effective way of meeting the family’s needs.
Reasons why a face-to-face visit may be more effective or necessary include:
- Family has limited IT to be able to carry out virtual calls
- There is a need to provide coaching or demonstrate or model good practice which cannot be done effectively remotely
- The family would benefit from emotional support that cannot be done effectively remotely
- To carry out accurate and effective assessments and monitoring
- When fitting or checking equipment, such as radio aids
- Concerns about safeguarding and a need to see a child in person.
Where government guidance permit home visits, professionals will already be carrying out risk assessments to decide whether to provide support remotely or face-to-face. We encourage professionals to balance the risks around coronavirus against the risk to the family and the deaf child if support is not provided face-to-face.
Professionals should obviously seek the agreement of the family before carrying out any visit and establish that any face-to-face visit can be carried out in line with the relevant social distancing and hygiene requirements for your nation (e.g. confirming that nobody in the family has any coronavirus symptoms, there is sufficient space to sit 2 metres apart and that the professional will not be able to consume any cups of tea, etc.).
As an alternative to a home visit, you could consider arranging to meet the family in an appropriate public space, such as a children’s centre or an early years setting.
We acknowledge that, in some cases, there may be no alternative but to provide support remotely (for example, because of a local lockdown or if someone in the household has coronavirus symptoms). Professionals ensure that support can still be provided remotely, as much as possible.
As far as we can see, government guidance does not include specific advice on the different scenarios in which deaf children may receive support in the home (for example, from a peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf). However, guidance around social care visits may provide a helpful guide:
Supporting and reassuring children
We know that many children are feeling anxious about current events and changes in their usual routine. A range of resources have been created for deaf children and young people with information about coronavirus and to support their wellbeing:
- MindHeart storybook for children under the age of 7, available in different languages
- World Health Organisation story book for children aged 6-11 years, which is also available in different languages
- Coronavirus: a book for children, with British Sign Language interpretation
- Deaf Kidz vs COVID-19 online game, with instructions available in British Sign Language and International Sign
- Dave the Dog is worried about coronavirus story in British Sign Language and English subtitles, for children aged 5-11.
- Stay Home Superheroes – a short story available animated with spoken English with subtitles, or in BSL with Deaf actors and aimed at pre-school and primary school age children
- AskDeafTeachers, a range of nine short videos in British Sign Language about coronavirus.
Deaf young people can also look at information about staying positive on The Buzz website.
Our website also includes information for families on how they can support their child’s emotional wellbeing. Public Health England has also produced guidance for families on promoting children’s mental health and wellbeing at this time whilst the Welsh Government has launched a Young Person’s Mental Health Toolkit which includes links to a variety of resources.
If you feel that a child needs more support with their mental health, our website has more information on the professionals that can provide support.
Many families will also be feeling anxious too. Families should be encouraged to stay connected with friends and family, even when face-to-face contact isn’t possible. In addition, support may be available through local groups for parents of deaf children.
Tragically, deaf children and young people may experience the loss of a family member due to the spread of coronavirus. The Child Bereavement Network provides advice to professionals on working with children experiencing bereavement at this time.
Peripatetic Teachers of the Deaf should consider how they will stay in contact with families (particularly those with children in their early years) if they are unable to carry out home visits. Options include Facebook groups, Skype video calls or webchats, FaceTime, Zoom conference calls, etc. Professionals may need to be creative in finding solutions.
In terms of working with other professionals, we encourage professionals to keep their local contacts and networks live and to continue to work together to troubleshoot specific issues that arise in their area. For example, Children’s Hearing Services Working Groups (CHSWGs) will continue to have a key role to play in ensuring that services are working well together.
Whilst workplace IT issues can sometimes be a barrier, we encourage professionals to be creative in addressing how they do this. As above, options include Facebook groups, Skype video calls or webchats, Microsoft Team, Google Hangouts, Zoom conference calls, etc.
Take a look at our blog post for families on how coronavirus has impacted on how families can claim disability benefits.
Face masks and coverings
Face masks and coverings introduces a range of communication challenges for many deaf children and young people and can be a source of anxiety for many families.
Our blog for families on face masks provides more information on when face masks or coverings must be worn and provides tips to overcome any communication barriers that arise.
Our education blog for professionals sets out our advice on the use of face coverings in education.
Remember that you can also refer families to us for support and advice by using our online form. If English is not their first language we can contact them with a phone interpreter or using InterpreterNow, a BSL video interpreting service.