About our group

Our group was started in 2008, with the aim of supporting deaf children and their families that are from a minority ethnic background. By this we mean people from all ethnic minority groups, who look visibly different and do not look visibly different.

Parents of deaf children have always volunteered within the group, and we are now running the club on a day to day basis.

The families that are involved with our group are from varied backgrounds, including Middle Eastern, Asian, and Polish. Needless to say we continue to support all families where there are language and cultural barriers.

Since 2010 we are working as the registered charity in Scotland - SC041504

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) identified the need to work with BME (Black Minority Ethnic) communities and felt that statutory organisations like schools, the health service were not engaging effectively with these families. Research suggests that there is greater prevalence of deafness among certain BME communities, one study indicating the incidence of deafness to be 4:1 in every 1000 Asian children being born with a hearing loss. Ref: Dr Gill Parry (Published in the BACDA Newsletter, October 1996, p25-29) and hence there is a greater need to support these families.

The NDCS received funding in the year December 2006 from the Scottish Government for a project to reach out to the BME families of Deaf Children. The project was very successful and managed to reach out to almost 70 BME families in the Glasgow and Greater Clyde region. The project finished after 3 years and we as parents of deaf children felt that there was a need for this work to continue to enable BME families to engage effectively with mainstream services and vice versa. The NDCS continues to support BME families by having core funded the post for a BME Community Development Officer in Scotland. The project empowered the parents and gave us the confidence to start our own group with a lot of support from NDCS, whereby we would be able to influence statutory services to engage more effectively with BME families where language was a barrier and also to help us make better decision on issues affecting our deaf children.

The Scottish Minority Deaf Children’s society was thus set up in 2009 .We are a group of parents from varied ethnic backgrounds and are all multilingual. The range of languages spoken in our group is Urdu, Punjabi, Polish, Russian, Arabic, Somali, Hindi, Farsi and Linghala to name a few. We have all been trained by the National Deaf Children’s Society as Family Support Volunteers. We are affiliated to the National Deaf Children’s Society, but have our own constitution, trustees and are completely self funded.

Apart from the deafness of the child/children there are also a wider range of issues that the BME families need support with.

  • Many of the families are new to the country and are economic migrants or have sought asylum or are refugees. They are unaware of the education, health system in the country and need a lot of support in the initial stages to find their feet.
  • Language barriers often restrict these parents from accessing vital information regarding their child’s health and education and thus prevents them from making informed choices.
  • Deafness also makes it harder for children from BME communities to communicate with their families, especially if English is not the first language spoken at home.
  • Certain cultures and communities can be less accepting of difference and disability. It is a challenge for us to promote positive images and experiences of deafness amongst all cultures.
  • Many new migrants come from developing countries where at times the children have had no medical intervention and get aided with hearing aids only when they arrive in the UK. This poses a challenge as the children are relatively older when they come here and language/communication is almost non existent.

Thus the main aims of the group are:

  • Providing a parent to parent network, sharing similar experience in a language they understand
  • Providing accessible information on issues such as health, education, technology and communication
  • Providing emotional support with the cultural and language aspects of the family also being met
  • Providing Deaf children from similar backgrounds the opportunity to meet other children from similar backgrounds
  • Providing Sign Language courses tailored specifically for parents whose first language is not English
  • To recruit more volunteers who are parents of deaf children form areas out with Glasgow and further develop our Family Support Network.

The group has successfully organised a range of activities for deaf children and their families. For example:

The group ran a Saturday club for children where by children made puppets and produced a DVD of an Indian wedding. The artists were from Project Ability. Such groups give the deaf children an opportunity to meet their peers as many deaf children go to main stream schools and could be the only deaf child in their school. At the same time these events provide opportunities for BME parents to meet other parents from a similar cultural background. We also encourage the parents to attend mainstream events organised by The National Deaf Children’s Society and the local groups in their area thus integrating these families and reducing isolation.

We currently host a Drop In session for parents on the last Saturday of every month. This is done in partnership with Deaf Connections and is the same time as the BME Deaf Club for young people. The purpose of the Drop In’s is to invite speakers who can give parents information on issues related to childhood deafness. If there are any particular issues, regarding welfare benefits, filling out Disability Living Forms, issues with school etc , they are passed on to NDCS Family Officers who have the knowledge and expertise to help families with these issues. The children at the same time can access the Deaf Club run by the Ishara Project at Deaf Connections.

We will also be starting a Family Sign Language class for the families in partnership with the Ishara project at Deaf Connections. The Family Sign Language curriculum is very visual and hence accessible to people who may not be able to read or write in English. Also the course aims to include sign language that one would be able to use on a day to day basis with their child. The aim is not to work towards a Level 1 or 2 in BSL but give parents confidence to use sign to communicate with their child at home on a daily basis.

For further information on all the above events please visit our website http://smdcs.org.uk Everyone can get an update about upcoming events or read the website news using Twitter and following @InfoFromSMDCS

Quote from a Parent on support provided by (Family Support Volunteer and parent of a deaf child) illustrates this point further.
"I was very isolated before I met you. Now I feel more confident and do things on my own. Even getting on a bus on my own was scary before but now I travel all over Glasgow. Also I want to learn sign language so I can communicate with my son. You keep pushing me to do things and that is good for me. It reminds me that I owe this to my son and if I don’t learn to sign or take him to the Saturday Club, my son will become isolated too". Parent of a deaf child

Quote from a Family Support Volunteer
"I didn't have anyone to support me when my children were diagnosed with a hearing loss. I now provide emotional support to other families. Many parents who don’t speak English find it easier to talk to me" FSN Volunteer from Glasgow

For further information please contact :
Andrzej Bieniek 07876403608,
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Tasneem Jameel: 07879573010
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Additional information