Deaf and hard of hearing children face much greater socio-emotional difficulty than general public – study

‘Socio-emotional Development in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children’ is the first report of its kind carried out Ireland

The rate of socio-emotional difficulties amongst deaf and hard of hearing children is over three times that of the typical hearing population, a new report has claimed.

‘Socio-emotional Development in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children’ was commissioned by Chime, the national charity for deafness and hearing loss. The study found that 42% have clinically significant socio-emotional problems. These have an impact on home life, classroom learning and the ability to get on with others.

Only 14% of those surveyed, however, are currently receiving mental health or counselling supports.

It finds that the area of greatest difference for deaf and hard of hearing children is in peer difficulties, an area other studies have shown results in an increased lifetime risk of self-harm.

Chime warned that an approach which has involved urgent cases requiring specialist attention being seen by a psychiatrist in the UK at parents’ expense is unsustainable.

“Peer problems have been shown to increase the risk of self-harm over a lifetime, so the report findings in this area are very concerning,” said Chime CEO, Mark Byrne. “There are no specialised supports for deaf and hard of hearing children in the socio-emotional area, and a lack of specialist competency in Ireland.”

Byrne went on to say that deafness in and of itself is not the cause of these difficulties. Rather, a host of factors often outside their control leave deaf and hard of hearing children more vulnerable to socio-emotional difficulties.

“Issues which can lead to greater risk of socio-emotional difficulties include delayed diagnosis and appropriate intervention, lack of access to sign language and stigma towards deafness and the stresses associated with that,” he added. “Mainstream services struggle to assess and meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing children with socio-emotional difficulties.”

Mr Byrne said the HSE acknowledged in 2017 the need for specialist screening and intervention services for deaf and hard of hearing children with complex needs. The research used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) used internationally and also on a large sample of the Irish child population in the Growing Up In Ireland study.

Data was collected on children aged 4-17 with all types of deafness from mild through to profound. A total of 113 valid questionnaires were included in the analysis.

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