Families living on a low income bringing up deaf children

Rachel O'Neill, Jo Bowie, Helen Foulkes, Audrey Cameron, Rhian Meara, Donatella Camedda

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Chapter 1 is a review of literature relating to deaf young people living in low-income families. The aim of the review is to focus on research which increases fluency in language, and factors which improve language outcomes, even when socioeconomic circumstances are unfavourable. Deaf children growing up in low-income families currently have poorer language outcomes, and on average less successful academic outcomes from school. The review sets out the search strategy, which focuses largely on studies from higher income countries having similar health or education systems to the UK. The 59 sources are summarised and evaluated in nine themes. Finally, a synthesis examines the most important factors, discusses mediating variables where interventions may be possible to support low-income families, and summarises the most favourable strategies for interventions which could be more widely applied. One of the most promising results is the advantage with early identification and an early start in working with the family brings to language outcomes for deaf children from low-income backgrounds.
Chapter 2 aims to discover from parents living on a low income their experiences and views of bringing up a deaf child, the support available to them and challenges and supports they had in relation to their deaf child’s language development. Questions were developed using the literature and focused on the idea of parent confidence and strategies, rather than seeing the families in a deficit light. Twenty-one families from all parts of the UK were interviewed, mostly face-to-face and two using phone interviews. The findings showed that for families living on a low income, new-born hearing screening and early intervention were not very effective. Many families, particularly those with weaker reading skills or those who did not use spoken English, wanted more information and discussion from professionals about language, communication choices and equipment. Families often had no way to report back to health and education professionals how they really felt, or found it hard to express their views. Parental confidence was related to having good information and an alternative source of information such as someone who knew about the education system. Many families did not have any alternative sources. Over half the parents in this study used British Sign Language (BSL) or more basic sign language at home. Professionals often discouraged them from using this approach, but parents found it useful. However, parents did not have many opportunities to learn sign language.
Chapter 3 discusses the findings of both parts of the study, relating the literature review to the findings from the analysis of interviews. Recommendations based on the findings are made in relation to National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), teachers of deaf children and health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherScottish Sensory Centre
Number of pages103
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2019


  • deaf children
  • low income
  • language development
  • UK


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