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How can families be empowered to support and advocate for their deaf child?

Published Date: 31 May 2021

An overview of what we learnt at the second Unheard Children webinar

''If we hear that there is a deaf child somewhere and the parents are not part of the group, we go to meet them. We make them understand that our children are not any less than other children.’’

- Protima, mother of a deaf child and member of a Parents Group in North Bengal

This month Deaf Child Worldwide held a webinar delving deeper into the second chapter of our flagship report, Unheard Children, which looks at the topic of ‘Families’.

Families are vital because in the early years of life, parents and primary carers are the most important influence on a deaf child’s development. For deaf children in the developing world who often grow up in poverty, a parent or family member is can be their lifeline to a better future.

Unfortunately, in our two decades of work, Deaf Child Worldwide has found that widespread stigma still prevails.

This stigma means families often hide their deaf children away and bring them up in isolation. Parents, especially mothers, can be blamed or seen as ‘cursed’ for bringing a deaf child into the world, and families often break down leaving deaf children and their primary caregivers vulnerable to abuse.

The webinar’s keynote speech was delivered by Paola Rozo, a process-oriented facilitator of social transformation and learning with significant experience in the international development sector. Paola facilitated a two years’ action-learning process with ‘parents’ groups and families of deaf children and young people in South America.

You can watch her presentation by clicking on the video below:

Paola Rozo keynote

Paola discusses:

• Why we need to be aware of the deeply held beliefs we have about families, particularly of ‘the ideal’, in order to be inclusive.
• Why it is vital to look at families through the lens of gender, class, ethnic and linguistic identities, and to understand other disabilities that may impact them.
• Why an adult centric view of families looks closely at the adults, while her work has shown that deaf children themselves see hearing siblings and close friends as vital links to the hearing world.

We also heard from Protima, a mother who is a member of a Parents Group for parents of deaf children run by our partner organisation Khagenhat Welfare Organisation (KWO) in North Bengal.

Protima video

Protima tells us:

- How the KWO Parents Group reaches out to parents of deaf children in their area, giving advice on language and communication and how to apply for assistance from the government
- How KWO Parents help others understand what deafness is, and how to help their child achieve as hearing children do
- About her advocacy work on behalf of the parents, asking local government for more inclusive education for deaf children in the district.

Finally, participants of the webinar asked questions of our panel, which included Paola Rozo and Deaf Child Worldwide’s Head of South Asia, Shampa Nath. You can watch a recording of the Q&A here:

Families panel