Signature recently reached out to Susan Daniels OBE, the Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). The NDCS commits to trying to overcome the social and educational barriers that hold deaf children and young people back. Indeed, this is very important as it ensures that deaf children are not years behind their hearing counterparts. To learn more about Susan and the NDCS, be sure to keep on reading.
- As the CEO of the NDCS, what has been your proudest achievement?
Throughout my time at the National Deaf Children’s Society, I’ve seen so many milestones achieved, all of which are important in their own way. But the one which has been the most transformational was the introduction of newborn hearing screening, which has meant that deaf babies can now be identified very soon after birth. By identifying deafness early, we’re now able to give deaf children the best possible start in life and this is reflected in our new strategy ‘Every Moment Counts’.
2. How important is it to ensure that deaf children get a good start in life?
It’s vital. Research shows that early identification results in more positive outcomes for deaf children. The sooner deafness is identified, the sooner parents, alongside health and educational professionals, can get to work providing the support they need as they grow and develop. Newborn hearing screening is instrumental in this and has enabled so many deaf infants to get the support they need at such a crucial time.
Sadly, this isn’t happening enough. Recent Government research has revealed that deaf children are almost twice as likely as all children to complete their first year of school without having achieved a ‘good level of development’. This is why we launched Every Moment Counts, because we need to be reaching all deaf children during those vital years.
3. What is your vision at the NDCS?
Our vision is a world without barriers for deaf children. We’re determined to keep on working to achieve this vision by supporting parents and by challenging governments and society to provide the support they need when they need it.
4. At the NDCS, what are your key beliefs and values?
We firmly believe that deaf children can do anything other children can do, given the right support from the start. Effective language and communication skills are central to a deaf child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. We also believe that families are the most important influence on deaf children. We aim to give families clear, balanced information so they can make informed choices about their own children’s future.
We put the deaf child’s needs at the very heart of everything we do. We’re here for every deaf child with every level of deafness. We stand side by side with families, professionals and supporters and we won’t stop until we’ve broken down every barrier standing between a deaf child and a happy and fulfilled life.
5. Can you expand on your 2023 to 2028 strategy?
We’re very excited to be putting our new strategy into action. We want to make every moment count in the life of a deaf child, from the moment their deafness is identified to their first day at school and beyond, both in the UK and around the world. This is why we have decided to focus more of our efforts and resources into supporting deaf children and their families during the early years, when early intervention by parents and other professionals can make a huge difference to their future prospects. Our own research shows that there are thousands of deaf children in the UK we’ve yet to reach, and we are determined to make contact with every one of them with our advice and support.
6. What piece of advice would you give to someone with a deaf child?
Nine out of ten babies are born to parents with little or no knowledge or experience of deafness, so it’s not surprising that finding out can be a very emotional time. But they’re not alone, we are here to support them, alongside audiologists, Teachers of the Deaf and Speech and Language Therapists, who can help families understand their child’s deafness and support their communication and learning development.
A vital part of the support we provide is a sense of community, the chance to meet, share stories and gain strength from other families who are going through the same experiences. Above all, we firmly believe that, with the right support from the start, deafness should never be a barrier to achievement or happiness.
7. What are the most common misunderstandings about deaf children?
Many people still don’t understand that deafness is a spectrum, ranging from mild to profound hearing loss. No matter what their degree of deafness, all deaf children will need some form of support. However, another misconception is that technology is the answer. While it’s true that hearing aids and cochlear implants can help some deaf people, they can never restore full hearing.
But perhaps the biggest misconception is that deafness is some kind of insurmountable barrier to achievement. It is not. With the right support, deaf children can perform and achieve exactly the same level as hearing children.
8. How can schools and organisations make facilities more accessible for deaf children and young people?
All public venues have a legal obligation under the Equality Act to make reasonable adjustments for people with physical or sensory disabilities, and there’s a huge amount that schools and organisations can do to create a good learning environment for deaf children. These adjustments can include adaptations to the physical facilities themselves to improve the acoustics, the use of technology to provide an enhanced hearing environment, and of course ensuring all staff are deaf-aware. We’d recommended that all schools and organisation visit our website to find out more about the way they can create a much more accessible space for deaf children.
9. What do you hope to achieve in the coming years at NDCS?
There are so many things I look forward to in the coming years. For instance, very soon there will be a BSL GCSE, thanks in no small part to the tireless campaigning of deaf young activist Dan Jillings, which will be a great step forward for deaf awareness and accessibility.
I hope to see more fantastic deaf role models in the media as well. Rose on Strictly, and now Tasha on Bake Off, have demonstrated very eloquently that sign language and speech are not mutually exclusive. They’ve done so much for deaf awareness, and we need to see many more.
I’m also optimistic that the Government will address the very serious shortcomings in the state of audiology services in the UK, which have been letting down deaf children and their families too often.
But what excites me most right now is Every Moment Counts, and our ambition to reach every single family with a deaf child who needs our support. I am really optimistic that, by working closely with our partners across the sector, we can make this happen. Deaf children deserve nothing less.
Thank you to Susan for sharing more about such an important organisation.