This past week, Cape Town newspapers were filled with images and stories children starting Gr.R and 1 for the first time. Leaving mom at the gate, tears and excitement, anxiety and fear…
One article however, completely ignored the issue at the heart of it all. A striking image of a young child with sky-blue eyes, and then to quote the article: “Once they learn to communicate, they apparently begin to feel isolated from their families, who often have little knowledge of sign language, so this is a place for them where they can express themselves” This a report on the first day of school for children a school for Deaf children.
This quote, really punched me in the gut! The sad reality for many families raising Deaf children. A child is provided with an opportunity to attend a school where she will be educated, learn a language and develop. As she flourishes in her language and communication skills, she becomes isolated from her family…
This isolation is not deliberate though. The crucial link, the empowerment of the parents/caregivers raising Deaf children is missing. Very little, to no guidance and skills development is offered to parents of Deaf children. Their families therefore become inaccessible because they do not speak their child’s language…
How can this child be expected to thrive in all areas (emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively) if her family cannot support and encourage her in her first language, South African Sign Language, a language that our pathetic government is yet to recognise as an official language in South Africa!?
How powerful and encouraging it would have been to read that this government school offers support services and sign language training to families that assist with the prevention of the child growing up in isolation from her family?
I don’t have any experience with South African Sign Language, but I am a mother and I can’t begin to imagine NOT being able to communicate with my child in a language that he understands. I cannot imagine sending my child to a special needs school WITHOUT being offered any support and guidance as to how to communicate and assist in the development of my child. A school after all, is an extension of my home and family.
A child’s language should not isolate, it should open up a child’s world to wonder! How can we encourage parents and families of Deaf children to learn SASL, are there resources and do the families have access to the information and opportunity to learn their child’s language through the school that they attend? How much support do those working with Deaf children offer the families of the children whom they work with?
We should always remember that behind every child is a parent, a caregiver, a family. The heart and foundation of any child…people who want to be involved and who should be given the opportunity to develop and grow with their Deaf child…They after all also have a special need; a need to learn the language of their child; South African Sign Language.
I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO EMPOWER, SUPPORT and GUIDE parents through their child’s development needs. A child with hearing loss deserves to receive language and communication support outside their school environment. This support SHOULD be from THEIR FAMILIES and therefore their families should be seen as the KEYHOLDERS to their CHILD’s SUCCESS and DEVELOPMENT!
Let’s not educate children in isolation of their families, let’s educate them holistically by empowering their parents and families!
0 thoughts on “Language Should Not Isolate…”
I think, as with everything else to do with special needs in this country, is that parents have to be proactive. Parents can’t sit back and wait, they need to be involved, ask questions and be the major player in their child’s team. Government is not going to do anything, unless the parents advocate for their children.
The sad reality is that for most parents in disadvantaged communities, their child is diagnosed in a language that they barely understand, there is very little, if any information shared about hearing loss and the developmental implications thereof. It can also be quite intimidating for parents when meeting with medical professionals.
I grew up with a deaf father and I myself did not have a clue what it meant when my son was diagnosed with a hearing loss. And information was not readily available or freely shared.
There are some organisations working with empowerment and information sharing. BUT there are very few resourcing that empowers the parent at a level that incoporates the actual language development of the child (sign or spoken).
It is however encouraging to see that there has been a move towards a “team” approach and acknowledging the important role that the parent plays in the child’s development. Often times children with hearing loss will also have additional learning challenges or sensory challenges.
It really can be very overwhelming for someone who has no clue. I do take my hat off to professionals and individuals who assist with the empowerment of parents and sharing the necessary information and knowledge that enables parents to really make informed decisions and ask the right questions.
My opinion is that things need to change at government level, since most children are diagnosed at government institutions and are educated at government schools…
Gee this is a very long reply! But I also forgot to mention that there are quite a few organisations working on current policies and accommodations that are needed in South Africa.
Not being in your situation I cannot understand all the complexities of it but you are right. The opportunities which school opens up should not isolate but create avenues where families can learn and grow together.
What a heartbreaking concept…I cannot imagine not being able to communicate with my child. I wish I could say that if enough people rallied together, that the government would take action and empower those with special needs in general. But I think we all know that it simply isn’t going to happen. There must be an NGO working with empowering families of deaf children though?
What about Deaf Federation of SA?
Yes, there are quite a few NPO’s advocating for better policies, resources and acommodations.
We have a similar problem in the US. However I think ASL (American Sign Language) is a recognized language here. Still too many of the deaf are isolated.
One of the challenges in South Africa is also that educators at sign language schools are not fully trained in the language. Currently there is an organisation SLED working on this – training educators, and South African Sign Language is recognised as part of the school curriculum as of this year.
Yes, we need an approach that will include and not exclude families.
Thank you for your comments all the way from the US 🙂