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What has changed for Unheard Children?

Published Date: 10 Mar 2022

How Deaf Child Worldwide is actively sharing the interventions we know work in low income communities

It has been a year since we at Deaf Child Worldwide held our first webinar in our five-part Unheard Children series. Bringing together NGOs, academics, professionals and policy makers we explored the initiatives we know transform the lives of deaf children in low income countries. Each webinar was themed around the chapters of our flagship report Unheard Children, launched in December 2020.

On a surface level, the title ‘Unheard Children’ seems like a light-hearted play on words, but it conveys a much more serious message. Too often we know that deaf children face severe challenges due to late diagnosis, difficulty accessing quality education, stigma, isolation and discrimination.

This blog reflects on what our work has achieved so far, and on how we plan to continue sharing our learning in the future.

Topics and themes

Deaf Child Worldwide has nearly twenty years’ experience of working with deaf children and their families. Through partnering with grassroots community organisations in several different countries we have built up a strong evidence base that demonstrates what works to overcome some of the barriers deaf children face.

The interventions we know work differ from interventions children receive in high- and middle-income countries. This is because hearing technology, early language support and other typical interventions are not usually available to children and their families who live in poverty. We wanted to spread our knowledge about the cost-effective ways’ grassroots organisations can deliver programmes which help deaf children in their communities.

Holding webinars was new to us at Deaf Child Worldwide. But a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic keeping staff working from home and our desire for practitioners anywhere in the world to attend, meant that webinars were the perfect method for us to connect and share.

The webinar topics were:

Language & Communication: understanding the first and most immediate challenge deaf children face

Families: empowering families to understand and advocate for their deaf child

Communities: undoing negative cultural stereotypes that persist about deafness

Education: ensuring schools are inclusive and accessible for deaf children

Independence: developing the skills and resilience young adults need

However, it was impossible to discuss these topics in isolation and there were many cross-cutting themes. Central to our discussions was the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of deaf children. School closures and other restrictions have meant significant lost learning for all children, but the intersections of poverty and disability meant that the children we advocate for have been extremely vulnerable.

Our webinar series was held from March to October 2021. We were delighted that hundreds of practitioners registered from nearly 40 different countries. This meant we had perspectives from many different contexts in the break-out rooms. Interestingly, 80% of people attended more than one webinar.

Further engagement

Since the webinar series, we have met with staff from numerous charities which work with or seek to work with deaf children. Some of these are large household name NGOs which work in several different countries, others were smaller and worked in only a few countries or in just one. We have learnt that disability programmers are eager to learn more about the specific needs of deaf children. We have also made connections with academics working in this field and are exploring ways we can share research.

We know that our report and our webinars give only an overview of the barriers deaf children face, and only touch on some of the strategies we know work to bring down these barriers. That’s why we are also ramping up our training programme. At the end of 2021 we ran our first ‘hosted’ training programme where candidates from different charities and different countries came together for a three-session online Introduction to Deafness course. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting participants from many different countries who all work with deaf children.

In March this year we held a bespoke training session for a large international charity, and we are in conversation with others about how we can work with them.

What’s next?

Ultimately, we know that as a small NGO we alone will not be able to reach every deaf child. But by sharing our knowledge and the knowledge of other experts in this field, we hope to reach those that do, such as governments, large International NGOs as well as smaller local ones. We will be running another Introduction to Deafness online three-session training course in June 2022 for NGO staff and a new course titled Teaching Deaf Children for educators who work with deaf children in September.

In 2022 we plan on holding two more webinars for anyone anywhere in the world who meet some key criteria to join. The first will be held in May and is titled ‘Two years on: the impact of the pandemic on deaf children in the developing world’, where we and other experts will share what access deaf children had to education throughout the pandemic and look at what we can learn from this to help improve education for deaf children in the future. The second will be held later in the year and we are interested in exploring early childhood interventions for deaf children in developing countries. If you have any ideas for presenters and panellists, or suggestions of research we should share, please send us an email to: [email protected]  

We love connecting with people all over the world.