Findings from the study
The introduction of the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme in 2002 has resulted in many changes to the services available for deaf children and their families. Children with permanent hearing loss are now identified significantly earlier than before the programme was introduced, meaning that families are facing many issues while their child is still very young.
Positive Support in the lives of Deaf Children and their Families was a research project funded by the Big Lottery Fund through Deafness Research UK. The aim was to help families, service providers and policy makers to understand the effectiveness of the different types of support available. The four year project has now come to end.
Eighty-two families from across the UK provided the research team with information, via several questionnaires, on their thoughts and feelings about the services available. In addition each family nominated three professionals, such as their Teacher of the Deaf, to complete a set of questionnaires on their views. Measures of the children’s development were also collected at regular intervals throughout the study.
Some of the main findings from this large and complex study revealed that the use of sign language in the early months and years of a deaf child’s life did not impede the development of spoken language, that greater collaborative working is needed between audiologists and teachers of the deaf to maximize benefit to deaf children from amplification and, importantly, there is an association between earlier identification of deafness (within the first six months) and improved developmental performance.
Professor John Bamford, who led the research team at the University of Manchester, said “Our results show that on average, deaf children’s performance is somewhat delayed compared with typical hearing children, although there is considerable variability. However, when service providers adapted to parental requests to allow additional time for single case management we saw a high level of satisfaction from the families”.
The project has also created two new tools which will be made available beyond the life of the project. The MacArthur Bates CDI has been validated and standardised in BSL and Deafness Research UK will be collaborating in its publication. A parent report measure for assessing the quality of early intervention services (the MVOS - My Views on Services) has already been published. Data and research publications from these and other parts of the study are available in the sections below, with more to follow in the coming months.
The study was conducted in conjunction with the National Deaf Children's Society and University College London.