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Three key considerations in working with families of deaf children and young people

Published Date: 29 Apr 2021

A guest post by Paola Rozo

Family is widely perceived as a key condition for every child to develop her or his full potential. It is also broadly inferred that a family is even more determinant for his or her development when a child has a disability.

Teams and organisations tend to place children and young people at the very centre of all their efforts to help them overcome their socio-cultural barriers throughout their lives, including when they become adults.

It seems logical to think of family as the natural and foundational way to walk towards a world without barriers for every deaf child. Luckily, there are many stories where this is the case. But what happens when families struggle to have the resources to support their children in the best way possible?

Here are three considerations to better understand working with families of deaf children and young people:

1.) Unpack your understanding of ‘family’. Raise questions such as: What are families really like? Who are their members? What are their individual and collective life stories? What were the childhood experiences of the adult members? What sort of barriers have they faced? Which ones have they overcome? How have they achieved that?

2.) Understand the hearing siblings experience and their role. It is crucial to unpack the role of hearing siblings and their experience with deafness. Very often they act as an “bridge” between their deaf siblings and the hearing world. What are the barriers they face? What can be learnt from their experiences on living with deafness?

3.) Understand what other struggles the families are facing, by taking an intersectional analysis, looking at factors such as class, gender and ethnicity. Special attention to rank and power dynamics is necessary to better inform how change through the family can happen and how we can contribute towards it. It will also enable us to prevent the exacerbation of inequality and exclusion.

Paola Rozo is a process-oriented facilitator of social transformation and learning, with a wide experience in the complex, dynamic and uncertain international development field. She has been supporting teams and organisations to gain deeper awareness of rank and power dynamics through the lenses of intersectionality, vulnerability, decoloniality and inequality. For over 20 years, Paola has worked with grassroots, collectives, local and international NGOs in different countries to gradually step into more grounded and conscious development practices. She also has vast experience in leading evaluation missions and facilitating action-learning exercises based on the Theory of Change approach and Processwork (Process-oriented psychology for conflict transformation and awareness facilitation).

Paola will share her reflections and key findings from having facilitated a two years’ action-learning process with ‘parents’ groups and families of deaf children and young people in South America at Deaf Child Worldwide’s webinar on ‘Families’ on 11 May. Click here to register here to attend.