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  • The Neurodivergent Therapy Space

Inclusive Therapy for the Deaf Community

Why does society still struggle to communicate with the deaf community? Why do schools have such a heavy emphasis on teaching a different language but barely acknowledge the need for everyone whether hearing or not to be able to sign? The child who is profoundly deaf who starts school and has to teach their teachers and friends how to sign just to be able to communicate is pretty disappointing in this day and age.

The adult who is deaf and wishes to order a coffee and cake at their local cafe struggles to do so without having to either write it down or have an interpreter with them. This feels suffocating and debilitating even thinking about it so why are we still so adverse to bringing this in to schools and teaching sign as part of everyday learning?

I walked into my GP surgery recently. We are all aware we are asked to wear masks which poses another barrier for people with a hearing impairment. As I walked in I could see a women becoming frustrated with the receptionist because the receptionist could not understand what she was trying to communicate. This woman was struggling as it was because she was also on a mobility scooter and the height of the reception desk meant she was also struggling to see clearly without the receptionist standing up. I could also see the receptionist was feeling uncomfortable and I imagine filled with shame about her lack of ability to support this woman.

Luckily I do know some sign and I was able to intervene and get the support this woman desperately needed. But I have to say I was also overcome with shame at the reality that, although my small amount of signing knowledge was able to get her the support from the gp, I was then unable to confidently sit and have a chat with her in the reception area. I struggled to keep up with what she was saying and although I was honest with her about this, it left me feeling uncomfortable at the fact she had to slow down her signing so I could understand her. Why should another person have to educate me just so they can have a conversation?!

It really highlighted the struggles and limits people face when attempting to do such a 'normal' daily task and the effects that this must have on people’s mental wellbeing. It reinforces why I am so passionate about being part of the change to ensure we become far more inclusive than what we are right now.

It also highlighted the desperate need for signing therapists. The thought of entering a therapy room and baring all is challenging enough as it is for most people, never mind someone with a hearing impairment who would then have to bring in a third person to communicate for them. This leaves people feeling even more vulnerable and would likely restrict what they need to explore due to the risk of feeling uncomfortable knowing their interpreter would know everything they were sharing in that space.

Having an inclusive practice is widely talked about in the therapeutic world. We all want to ensure we are able to support people from all walks of life. There are few therapists with the ability to sign at the high level necessary to be able to therapeutically support someone without the need of an interpreter. This means accessing mental health support for people with a hearing 'diffability' is a huge hurdle. Continuing signing levels is something close to my heart and I wish to be part of the change for such a marginalised and often subtly discriminated part of our population.

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