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Information for professionals

Photo: Professionals involved in the care of deaf children can also give support to their siblings

Everyone involved in the care of deaf children can also give valuable support to their siblings, including professionals such as GPs, teachers and youth workers. 

Jennie is mum to Connie (4) and Olive (3). Olive has cerebral palsy, is profoundly deaf and wears bilateral cochlear implants.
“Connie has had to grow up very quickly. She has to wait for everything, wait while we get Olive in her chair for dinner, wait while we lift Olive out of the bath, wait while we calm Olive down before we go anywhere, wait while we get Olive’s equipment in the car… and so on. She has heard me explain a hundred times that Olive is deaf and has cerebral palsy and can’t walk. And I’ve heard her tell people with pride: ‘My sister is in a wheelchair and talks in sign language.’”

General approach to service delivery

  • When working with a family of a deaf child, think about the needs of the siblings, broader family and friends, as well as the parents. It can be helpful to ask parents to draw a support network diagram of who is involved in the child’s care, then ask about what support the individuals may need.
  • If the siblings live with another parent outside of the household, try to learn more about the relationship, and what their needs are.
  • Routinely check with deaf children and their parents about their siblings. Identify ways of involving siblings and identifying their own support needs. 

Supporting siblings on a home visit

The following information was taken from Sibs, the UK charity for siblings of disabled people.

  • Acknowledge the sibling’s presence when you visit – talk to them, always use their name, and bring something fun for them to do.
  • Ask about what they do in the family, how they communicate with their siblings, and acknowledge any feelings that they express. Let them know that they’re not the only ones with a deaf sister or brother and tell them about some of the other siblings you know.
  • Help siblings get age-appropriate information; ask them what they already know and use this to gauge what information to provide.
  • Where possible, involve the sibling in the sessions.
  • Look out for issues relating to challenging behaviour from the sibling. Help the family look at how to give the sibling some personal space and attention.
  • Inform and refer siblings to appropriate support, for example any sibling groups in the area.

We have activity booklets just for hearing siblings to to help them understand deafness and explore and express their emotions. You might want to download or order copies to bring with you on home visits: 

Action checklist

As you work on your plan to support siblings and their families within your area, you may want to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you or your service know about the siblings in your area, and what their needs are?
  • Do your staff consult with siblings and their families about whether they’d like support?
  • Do you encourage and support staff to ask parents you work with if there are siblings, and whether they have support needs?
  • Are you aware of sibling support groups and opportunities in your area?
  • Have you, and your colleagues, got access to information for siblings in an appropriate format?
  • Are you aware of signing classes for siblings in your area?