I am Sue Marsden and I am leader of the Support Team for Deaf Children, based at Future House, Bradford. Our team supports deaf and hearing-impaired children from when their hearing loss is diagnosed until they leave school.
The team is made up of teachers of the deaf, an educational audiologist, specialist practitioners in audiology and early years and a deaf instructor.
Our work with deaf children and their families starts very early. All babies have their hearing checked when they are born and if they are found to have a permanent hearing loss the hospital refers them to our team.
In the early years we visit children at home to:
- help the family understand hearing loss and what it means for their child
- encourage the use of hearing aids
- advise on speaking and listening and how the family can help the child with communication and language development
- introduce signs, if that is helpful for the child
- tell families about useful organisations such as the National Deaf Children’s Society
- assess the child’s development to make sure that they are making the expected progress
We aim to give the family impartial, balanced advice and information to enable them to make the best decisions for their child. We know that each child and family is different and although we know about deafness, parents and carers are the experts in their children.
Our work requires great sensitivity because few families expect to have a child with a hearing loss and it takes time for them to get used to the news. We are available to talk with families about their concerns throughout the child’s early years.
We arrange ‘stay and play’ sessions, often at children’s centres, so that families can meet and chat and support each other. Our staff are always on hand to answer any questions they may have.
We work closely with other professionals such as audiologists, speech and language therapists, paediatricians and educational psychologists – aiming to provide a seamless, family-friendly service.
When the child starts school our role changes to advising staff on how best to help them in class. Most children with a hearing loss in Bradford go to their local mainstream school. Some need a higher level of support because of their deafness and they attend resourced mainstream schools with specialist staff.
As team leader I have a small caseload and make visits to children in schools but most of my time is spent working with colleagues to ensure that we deliver a high quality service to children, families and schools.
I enjoy my job very much. Every day is different and it is a privilege to work with such a wide range of families, schools and professionals who are committed to helping deaf and hearing-impaired children achieve their potential.