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Duke of Edinburgh award

Photo: The Duke of Edinburgh award helps young people develop new skills and is recognised as a mark of achievement by many employers.

The Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award can be a life-changing experience for young people who take part. It’s an opportunity for your child to learn essential life and employment skills by working on their own and as part of a team. It’s a great way to develop independence and gain a mark of achievement that’s respected by many employers.

Harry (16), who is severely deaf and has cerebral palsy, completed his bronze DofE award with his school and gained a lot from taking part.

“I learned how to cook for myself and the whole experience made me feel a bit more confident.”

What is DofE?

Awarded at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels, participants must dedicate time to each of the four sections.

  1. Physical

This part of the award involves trying out a sport, exercise or fitness activity. This can be anything from football to swimming to dance. Find out more about how to make team sports, swimming and cycling deaf-friendly here.

  1. Skills

Your child needs to choose an activity that will let them show they’ve improved their understanding and expertise in a certain skill. This could include becoming a sports coach, learning sign language, unpaid work experience or becoming a first aider. This could be great for your child’s CV or university application.

  1. Volunteering

Your child will need to find a charity or not-for-profit organisation to volunteer with. If your child knows sign language, they could teach the rest of their DofE group some sign language. This would then count towards their volunteering activity. You can find out more about volunteering for the National Deaf Children’s Society here.

  1. Expedition

Participants must take part in an expedition lasting at least two days and one night.

The award is usually led by organisations that work with young people including schools, colleges, universities and youth groups. Students are supported by staff, so the leader may already have some knowledge of how best to support your child. 

DofE can be both challenging and rewarding and you might be concerned about how your deaf child will get on when taking part. Here are some helpful tips to make their experience accessible and support them in achieving their award.

Meet leaders and other staff in advance

Meet with their teacher, the leader of the expedition or volunteering opportunity, and any other adults involved to let them know that your child is deaf. This means they can make reasonable adjustments to meet your child’s needs and make sure their DofE is a positive and inclusive experience.

Communication tips

Your child’s leaders and group need to know how to communicate with them in a deaf-friendly way. You can support this by:

  • Checking that leaders and other staff are aware of your child’s communication preference.
  • Discussing how staff can make adaptations, so all parts of your child’s DofE are accessible.
  • If your child wears a radio aid, speak to staff about how they can use it correctly.
  • Ask leaders, tutors and staff to discuss the best way to get your child’s attention before speaking or signing. This can be shared with the rest of the group, so everyone knows.
  • Share our useful communication tips with the staff involved in your child’s DofE. Ask them to share these with the group of young people too.
  • Suggest that when someone is delivering instructions, they face your child and check they have understood. It’s also useful for young people to sit or stand in a circle, so your child can see everyone in the group, know who is speaking and lip-read.

Adapting activities

There are lots of ways to adapt the activities involved in DofE so your child can take part safely. Share our top tips on how to adapt activities so they’re accessible for deaf young people.

If your child is taking part in any off-site activities, such as canoeing or climbing, make sure staff know to clearly explain what to do before the activity starts. This is especially important if doing a water-based activity and hearing aids or implants need to be removed beforehand. 

You can also share details about our Deaf Friendly Standard scheme with the staff or activity providers working with your child. We provide information, resources and training to organisations that focus on the small and simple steps organisations can take in order to be deaf-friendly. For more information contact us at [email protected].  

Overnight expeditions

It’s important that your child feels included, safe and confident on overnight trips that are part of their DofE. A few adjustments can make all the difference.

  • Your child could lead a short deaf awareness session as part of their award. This will help their peers know how to support them during the expedition.
  • If the young people go off to do an activity, your child needs to know what is expected of them. Make sure leaders know to explain what’s happening next to your child or suggest they work in a pair.
  • During planning sessions it’s helpful if the leader allows other young people to go first and encourages your child to watch the others so they know what to do when it’s their turn.
  • Ask staff to use visual cues, for example waving arms to get your child’s attention.
  • When your child is taking part in overnight expeditions, make sure the leader goes through emergency procedures that are in place to support them. This includes how and who will wake your child during the night if there is a fire evacuation or emergency. Make sure a plan is in place ahead of the residential and reasonable adjustments are covered in their risk assessments.
  • When taking part in walking expeditions, staff need to be aware that your child may not hear auditory cues, for example, bikes on walking paths or traffic. You may want to suggest grouping your child with hearing peers so they can warn them about any hazards.

Harry (16) is severely deaf. He cycled during his expedition and his team made sure they were careful when other bikes were on the trail.

“We had to be careful because we were on the trail with lots of other people on bikes, so we had to be in a line and not move away too much or there could have been a crash. We had to be well-organised and work as a team.”