A new way of supporting deaf pupils at mainstream schools has been launched by the National Deaf Children’s Society.
Nearly 80% of deaf children in England attend a school where they may be the only deaf child enrolled. Without the right support, deaf children and young people are vulnerable to isolation, abuse, bullying and poor self-esteem.
The ‘Helping Hands’ project aims to improve the confidence, skills and aspirations of deaf children and young people by training deaf pupils, aged 10-18 to mentor deaf pupils of all ages. This gives deaf children and young people the opportunity to meet and make friends with other deaf people and develop informal networks of peer support.
The National Deaf Children’s Society has been running the ‘Helping Hands’ project by training mentors in London, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the North East. Feedback from students and teachers has allowed the National Deaf Children’s Society to develop and design a ‘toolkit’ which will allow professionals to independently launch peer support groups for deaf pupils in their own schools.
One buddy involved in the project said of her mentor:
“I had never met another deaf teenager like me so I was amazed that my buddy was deaf too and understood all the things about being deaf.
“I feel more confident now because my mentor encouraged me to do a deaf awareness assembly which has really helped at school. I feel happy when I think about the future now.”
Isabel Reid, Helping Hands Project Officer, who was at the launch in Birmingham said:
“It’s so important to have a dedicated deaf peer scheme where deaf children and young people can support one another, build up their emotional resilience and share coping strategies in order to tackle the challenges that life may throw at them. It’s all about helping deaf children and young people to develop a positive deaf identity.
“I would encourage all schools with a deaf pupil to take up the opportunity. You can find out more at our website www.ndcs.org.uk or get in touch with our Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880.”
The Helping Hands Project is funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.