Why deaf students face isolation

Recent stats show that 60% of deaf young people are leaving school and going to Further Education.  This is compared to just one-third of all young people.  This is a promising number until you look at the dropout rates for deaf students.  They are, in fact, twice that of the general population.


But why is that?


I started my career working at the British Deaf Association (BDA), a leading Deaf charity.  I learnt a lot about the isolation that deaf people face in all areas of time.  This was due to having a predominantly deaf team.

This isolation is experienced at gatherings with hearing family members, accessing health services and a range of other everyday activities such as going shopping or to the gym.

This is also the case for education.


Mainstream vs Specialist Education


The majority of deaf children are educated at mainstream schools, with the minority at Specialist schools.

At a mainstream school, the deaf child will be one of a very small number (5-20) across all of the year groups at the school.  This massively reduces the number of peers who have shared life experiences, which can then, in turn, lead to social isolation.

A research paper by Nunes, Pretzlik and Olsson entitled Deaf children’s social relationships in mainstream schools examined the experiences of deaf people in both mainstream and specialist settings.

They found that Deaf adults who attended special schools have more positive memories of their school days than those educated in mainstream schools”.

So, we can already see here that deaf children can experience social isolation at a young age.


What are things like at University for a deaf person?


The average number of pupils at a secondary school is 948. At the same time, the student population at a University ranges from 1,000 to 40,000.

If a deaf student felt isolated at school, they most certainly would as a minority at a University.

Going to University is a new experience for everyone and can bring anticipation and sometimes anxiety.  Not knowing what to expect, being away from home, worried about whether you will make connections and if you will enjoy the subject you’ve chosen to study.

It is more than likely that there will be numbers of deaf students at a University, but for a deaf person just starting, how would you find them?  Like a needle in a haystack.


What can you do to welcome a deaf student?


Meet with the deaf student when they start at University and explain who is responsible for what

Get to know the faculty team so that you can provide guidance and support

Build a relationship with the Suppliers named on the DSA2 letter so that they can get in touch with you should they need anything