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What happens when the teachers and families of deaf children are given intensive support and training?

Published Date: 07 Apr 2022

A project in India which seeks to enhance the support deaf children in low income communities receive, for the benefit of those learning now and deaf children in the future

For 15 years we at Deaf Child Worldwide have worked with SAMUHA, an organisation based in Karnataka, southwest India. SAMUHA works with the most poor and vulnerable people in the community, with a long history of disability advocacy.

The deaf children SAMUHA works with come from low-income families, which means they are often formally diagnosed late, and their families struggle to access information about what deafness is and isn’t.

Through the lockdowns and restrictions, the region has experienced during the pandemic, SAMHUA’s Resource Parents groups and Community Resource Groups have emerged as a really important network in advocating for and supporting deaf children.

These groups consist of family members of deaf children. They offer classes in sign language, speech therapy, advocacy training, and information about the rights of children. The groups ensure each deaf child is registered as disabled in order to receive support from government schemes. Sometimes group members come in new to understanding deafness and over time become experts, taking the lead in educating and advocating for the deaf children of the community, even when their own deaf family member has grown up.

“For seven years we didn’t know what to do with these children, I didn’t get any guidance. We came to Samuha and they guided us how to integrate with the child. We learnt sign language, how to be with the child, how to adjust with the child all these I learnt and taught them. After seeing what I’m doing, Samuha staff told that, I have learnt many things, why don’t I help other children and it will help the society? We will help you to teach, will give you board, teaching materials. Now children are able to study, children are using computer. I am teaching two more children at my home.”

Resource Parent (cousin is deaf), Koppal

Families and schools

Earlier this year there was a couple of changes in the project approach.

Firstly, there was increased engagement with government to ensure that the methods and knowledge of what deaf children need is being embedded into the education system. SAMHUA started training the Inclusive Education Resource Teachers (IERT) in teaching skills to support deaf children. These IERTs are Government personnel. The goal is that in three years’ time they take this task over completely.

More recently the State Disability Commissioner’s Office introduced checklists for monitoring of the IERT. SAMUHA is one of the organisations that has been asked to use this checklist to monitor the IERT on how they support deaf children and provide feedback to the Commissioner’s Office. Besides contributing to shaping the IERTs role, this is also a way to regularly engage with the Government on deaf education and demonstrate the effective approaches used within the project.

Secondly, there has been a shift to provide increased focus on hearing siblings as a valuable resource in supporting deaf children.

100 siblings have been providing education support to the deaf children at home. SAMHUA has identified that they are a valuable resource as they are more educated than their parents. These 100 siblings are being provided with after school training in ways to support their deaf sibling in strengthening communication skills and on academics, for example maths and problem-solving methods.

In the latest Board exams, 10 deaf students from the project were successful in passing their Board exams and are now looking forward to continuing with further education. There was a time when the idea of a deaf child in one of these villages ever completing school would have been unimaginable. This is a result of the regular support by the SAMUHA team, Resource Parents and siblings even through the pandemic period.