11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing. There are at least 50,000 children who are deaf in the UK and sadly deaf children are at far higher risk of developing mental illness than their hearing peers.

Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event overseen by the UK Council on Deafness, and takes place this week to celebrate deafness, raise awareness and work towards deaf children having the same opportunities as everyone else.

The theme for Deaf Awareness Week 2022 is Deaf Inclusion, exploring the entire theme of inclusion within communities to highlight the impact of hearing loss on everyday life and increase visibility and inclusion of deaf people.

‘The focus is also about emphasising the importance of mental health and wellbeing and also recognition of underrepresented groups of people within the deaf community such as women, black minority groups, migrants and refugees and will aim to raise the profile of deafness within society, education and health settings.’

Deaf individuals often feel unsupported, unwanted, invisible, and excluded.

This year the actress Rose Ayling-Ellis placed the spotlight on deafness when she became the first deaf contestant on BBC TV show Strictly Come Dancing and won, prompting a huge increase of interest in deaf culture and learning British Sign Language (BSL). The Guardian recently reported on the raised profile and quoted Paula Garfield, the founder of Deafinitely Theatre, the UK’s first deaf-led youth theatre company that Rose trained at and who said she has seen a surge in interest from budding young deaf performers.

“Rose is so important as a positive role model. She’s deaf, but she has a community, culture, language and pride in those – she’s not trying to hide her deafness. She’s saying, ‘Don’t be shy, you shouldn’t be ashamed of using your first language, BSL, because it’s beautiful and rich.’ That’s opening a lot of doors. She’s saying deaf people can do anything they want to do,” she said.

So thinkng about Deaf Inclusion we wanted to share our ‘Celebrating me’ programme that helps children with difference and diversity. Good language and communication skills are at the heart of deaf children being able to make friends, stay mentally healthy and succeed in education.

Our programme celebrates neurodiversity, disability, culture and the wide range of diversity within society and acknowledges the often uncomfortable experience of ‘feeling different’, of not feeling included, valued or that you belong. Feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance is a human need as is connection to others and it is crucial that we support children to understand the context they live in, feel appreciated and celebrated for who they are and who they will become.

Our programme focuses on helping children to celebrate who they are and to celebrate others too. It helps children to recognise how it feels to ‘feel different’ or to experience differences and to understand how to celebrate who they are whilst acknowledging, appreciating and celebrating difference as well as similarities. It draws together human connection.

“When we feel we belong and recognise similarities in people we are with, we feel accepted and safe. But when we feel different, or that we don’t belong, we can feel confused, uncertain or mixed.”

Celebrating differences and acknowledging similarities is powerful in allowing us to be true to ourselves and to value who we are. Our ‘Celebrating me’ difference and diversity pack helps children to understand the feelings that we may experience and begin to express these thoughts and feelings. It also allows them opportunities to celebrate the beauty of diversity. There are opportunities to understand prejudice and stereotyping, to know how to it may feel to be treated unfairly and how to challenge this. Celebrating difference and celebrating who we are form the core message for children to feel special and unique. Through discussion and the activities with an empathic, trusted adult the children will:

  • explore what it is to be unique and special,
  • understand how it may feel to be treated unfairly and how to challenge this,
  • recognise how we can all have different feelings and experiences,
  • find ways to stand up for their own thoughts and ideas,
  • celebrate diversity

We invite you to explore our wellbeing intervention resource and to help children to feel valued, heard and connected.

You may also be interested in

Cartoon of Milo sleeping on his chair

Subscribe to our newsletter

SIGN UP FOR EXCLUSIVE OFFERS

Sign up to receive news on current issues that are affecting children and young people as well as resources we are developing to support you in your precious work with children.

Hamish with newspaper cartoon