By Cate McCurry, PA
The rate of socio-emotional difficulties amongst deaf and hard of hearing children is more than three times that of the typical hearing population, a new report shows.
The study, the first of its kind carried out in Ireland, found that nearly half (42 per cent) have clinically significant socio-emotional problems – which have an impact on home life, classroom learning and the ability to get on with others.
Only 14 per cent of these, however, are currently receiving mental health or counselling support.
The study found 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.
The report, Socio-emotional Development in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, was commissioned by Chime, the national charity for deafness and hearing loss.
It has 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, and that quicker intervention is required.
Chime CEO Mark Byrne said: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
In countries such as Sweden, where there is specialist early intervention, scores for deaf and hard of hearing children were similar, if not lower, than the typically hearing population, report author Dr Elizabeth S Mathews of Dublin City University pointed out.
The research used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), as well as a large sample of the Irish child population in the Growing Up In Ireland study.
Data was collected on children aged four to 17 with all types of deafness from mild through to profound.
Chime campaigns for equal rights, greater accessibility and opportunities for individuals impacted by deafness.