Why communication is important in transitions – A Deaf Action social worker’s perspective.

 Making a change from one setting to another, or transitioning from one phase of life to another, can be challenging for anyone. Being deaf* or having a hearing loss can bring with it additional difficulties, mostly though the difficulty is when a person’s deafness is not understood. Adjustments are needed to ensure that information is delivered in a format accessible to the person. This could mean providing communication support in British Sign Language (BSL) or information presented in a more visual way, or the use of technology such as loop systems. This may also include thinking about deaf parents and their access to information to ensure they are fully informed and involved. This is how Principle 5 can be put into practice.

An essential part of ensuring good transitions for me is communication. Including communicating directly with the person in the style they prefer, working with other professionals and agencies; raising deaf awareness and promoting the use of interpreters or technology so that services are accessible for deaf people. Sometimes a change can be unexpected and long term planning isn’t possible. That is why clear information and good communication skills are so important from the beginning, setting the foundations for any eventuality and assisting with a good transition.

An example of this is Sarah, who moved into supported accommodation while she was still finishing school. She had a clear aim for college and was supported by school to apply for courses. We met with her school and new support staff and highlighted the need for more support with independent travel, as she would be travelling between her new home and college. It was important to Sarah that she could do this and that she would be able to meet his friends. We also liaised with a specialist transition social worker and the college to ensure communication support workers were in place.

Sarah’s preferred language was British Sign Language and she had developed her fluency with this language through classes at school and conversing with friends. This was not the first language in the home she grew up in and sometimes she experienced a lack of access to BSL. Sarah wasn’t always confident in highlighting her needs. I promoted the use of BSL interpreters for regular key worker meetings at her supported accommodation and supported staff to be able to book interpreters themselves as well as alleviating any funding concerns they had around this. Sarah wasn’t always confident in highlighting her needs. This need was written into Sarah’s care plan making sure she had full access to information and that her views would be listened to in return.

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act in 2015 legislating for the promotion of, and access to, BSL by public authorities across Scotland. Deaf Action is part of the Deaf Sector Partnership and will undertake direct work around participation and citizenship with young people who are Deaf BSL users and provide BSL awareness training to public bodies, which should help improve this situation though how it will impact on transitions planning is still yet to be realised. There is also a youth group which provides deaf young people with the opportunity to meet other young people having similar experiences, encouraging peer networks.

Having a social network of friends who can use the same language as you or have the same needs for clear communication is very supportive. As is, knowing the key people in your life can communicate clearly with you, making the experience of transitioning from one phase of life to another much easier.

*deaf includes people who are Deaf BSL users, deafened, deafblind and hard of hearing