The National Deaf Children’s Society has said it represents a focus shift.
The National Deaf Children’s Society has launched a new five-year strategy which aims to ensure all deaf children across Scotland receive the support they need during their early years.
The paper, Every Moment Counts, looks to provide support to deaf children as soon as their deafness is identified.
The charity is shifting the focus of its campaigning to early years as it strongly believes that families need first class support during this crucial period, so they feel empowered to make informed decisions and champion their deaf child.
For all children the early years are a crucial time, but the National Deaf Children’s Society says this is even more so for deaf children, given the impact deafness can have on language development, communication, and social skills.
Missed opportunities to spot deafness and provide the support deaf children need can lead to lifelong impacts, according to the charity.
It says a deaf child without good language and communication development in the early years, be it spoken, sign, or a mixture of both, can experience ongoing challenges.
They may struggle to listen and follow instructions in the classroom, or miss conversations with their peers, leading to feelings of isolation and a sense of ‘missing out’.
Mark Ballard, head of policy and influencing for Scotland with the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Deaf children are just as capable as their peers when they have right support in place, ideally from the very beginning. But many families in Scotland are struggling to access this support.
“It means that deaf children just aren’t being given the opportunity to thrive in those crucial formative years. Once they fall behind, it can be incredibly hard to catch up and this can have a lasting impact that affects them throughout their lives.
“Every moment counts, from the time a child’s deafness is identified, to their first day at school and beyond. We owe it to deaf children to give them the best start in life.”
Teachers of the Deaf can help bridge this gap, by providing specialist support to deaf children of all ages once their deafness is identified.
They play a vital role in deaf children’s lives, particularly during the critical early years - helping to reduce their chances of them falling behind developmentally, socially and educationally.
But a report published by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), shows Teachers of the Deaf numbers across Scotland have fallen by 40% in a decade and almost half (45%) are due to retire in the next 10 years.
The fall in numbers is twice that of other parts of the UK.
This means thousands of deaf children across Scotland are not getting the support they need in school.
Deaf young people in Scotland are already twice as likely as their hearing classmates to leave school with no qualifications and half as likely to go on to university.
The National Deaf Children’s Society warns that unless action is taken urgently things will only get worse.
It is calling on local authorities across Scotland to commit to returning qualified Teacher of the Deaf numbers to 2011 levels over the next decade.
At their annual congress in May, The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA), Scotland’s second largest teaching union, unanimously agreed a motion backing the charity’s call on the Scottish Government to address the dramatic drop in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf, as “matter of urgency”.
The charity also calls on the Scottish Government to develop and deliver a Scotland-wide workforce strategy for Teachers of the Deaf, and to ensure they are properly paid for the extra responsibilities they take on, in recognition that their specialist expertise is valued.