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Are UK Schools Neglecting Deaf Children?

by Alex Kilpatrick

A new study suggests that deaf children in the United Kingdom are being “failed by the education system,” according to BBC News.

According to researchers, more than half of the deaf children assessed in the study experienced reading difficulties as severe as those faced by hearing dyslexic children.

The team commented that there are currently no specific interventions routinely offered to deaf children to support reading.

The Department for Education stated that it plans to give 1.7 million dollars to councils in the United Kingdom over the next two years to help deaf children.

A research team from City University London carried out the study, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and compared two groups of children ages 10 to 11 across the United Kingdom.

One of the study’s groups consisted of deaf children who communicate orally rather than by using sign language. The other group was made up of hearing children with dyslexia.

Seventy-nine of the children studied had a severe-profound level of deafness, representing a significant proportion of oral deaf children in the United Kingdom in this age group.

Because of their hearing loss, deaf children tend to experience difficulty hearing the speech sounds upon which reading is based.

According to the report, hearing children with literacy difficulties tend to be described as dyslexic, causing them to be given the specialized support they need to grow. However, the oral deaf children in the study were not offered this support, causing them to fall behind their peers.

“Too many deaf children continue to fail at reading,” Dr. Rosalind Herman, one of the report’s authors, told BBC News. “Poor reading is not an inevitable outcome for every deaf child. With a proper understanding of their reading deficits and appropriate support, the outlook for deaf children in the United Kingdom can change.”

The Nuffield Foundation’s Josh Hillman commented that the research “reveals the extent to which the education system is currently failing to address the needs of deaf children with reading difficulties.

“It also demonstrates that it is possible to identify and address those difficulties at an early stage. We now need to see specialist reading interventions for deaf children who communicate using spoken language to ensure they receive the equivalent support to their hearing classmates.”

The Department for Education pointed out to BBC News that in 2013, “more deaf children than ever before achieved five good GCSEs, including English and maths” in England.

In 2013, 42.7 percent of deaf children achieved five GCSEs at A to C, including English and maths, compared to 37.4 percent in 2012 and 28.3 percent in 2007 and 2008.

“We are providing [1.7 million dollars] over two years so that councils can work together more effectively to help deaf children,” a spokesman for the Department for Education told BBC News, “and we are also funding the National Deaf Children’s Society and the National Sensory Impairment Partnership to look at how well councils support deaf students.”

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