Esther Rantzen: We must stop deafness becoming the ‘invisible illness’ – iNews

The only way to solve a problem is first to admit it exists. I know that sounds obvious, but often we behave as if ignoring the problem will make it go away. In my experience that never works.

The reason I mention this is that this week I helped to launch an appeal for a wonderful school, the Deaf Academy in Exeter, which has a long waiting list.

At the moment, thousands of deaf children are being denied the schools they need because special education has become politically incorrect. “Special schools” got a very bad press in the past, often rightly so.

Some were badly run, so that children with disabilities were dumped in inadequate, poorly resourced classrooms, and forgotten about. Parents fought to get their disabled children into mainstream education; eventually, in the name of equality, the special schools disappeared and local authorities were required to find places for deaf children in regular education.

Of course, that was brilliant – if it worked well for the child. But many deaf children found themselves even more disadvantaged. They felt isolated and vulnerable because even with special units or interpreters they could not communicate very well either with their peers or with their teachers, so they were at best left out, at worst abused and bullied.

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