The challenge of inclusion

I am a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) Postnatal Leader. I have been trained to run Early Days courses or drop-ins for new parents, usually mothers but also fathers too.

The courses aim to give parents time to think about how they are feeling, offer support through sharing experiences, increase their confidence and knowledge through listening, and explore issues such as the difference between expectations and the reality of parenthood. I have been running drop-in discussion groups as part of a weekly parent and baby group in Bromley (south east London) for eight years.

In spring 2004, some profoundly deaf parents joined the discussion group. My experience of how the challenge of inclusion was managed is outlined here. Sue arrived one morning with her baby Megan. She had been referred by the council's Children's Information Service (CIS), because it knew about the discussion groups. We communicated with scribbled notes and I introduced her to the mothers who were already part of the discussion group.

I began a dogged search for a British Sign Language interpreter. Fortunately, I was told about the local Deaf Access Centre, which runs a parent and toddler group for deaf parents. I passed this information back to the CIS for future reference _ they had not known of it.

I was put in touch with Tina, a female interpreter, who agreed to cover the sessions identified by Sue. This was good because the group was entirely female and included breastfeeding mothers. Arrangements were made for Tina to be paid for by the primary care trust contract for interpreting services _ this was obviously a great help, although I had arranged for NCT funds to be available, since its mission is to enable access to its services for all parents.

Two weeks later, Sue and two of her friends attended the discussion group with their babies. I found it interesting working with them and Tina, and observed that the whole group soon communicated very naturally. We all had to be reminded occasionally to slow down for the conversation to be signed or spoken, and to maintain eye contact for lip-reading skills. I used the flipchart more than usual to jot down key parts of the discussions. I regularly use visual aids such as cartoons, pictures and words to prompt discussion. These also helped everyone to feel included.

The feedback from everyone was that they had enjoyed the sessions _sharing similar joys and challenges helps all new parents to adjust to and gain confidence in their new role. It was also positive that Sue and her friends continued to come along for a while to join other parents for a coffee and for the babies to play together.

Further reading: I recommend Pregnancy and birth – a guide for deaf women by Sabina Iqbal. Available from NCT Maternity Sales.
Tel: 0870 112 1120
Fax: 0141 636 0606
E-mail: shop@nctsales.co.uk

Ruth Howard

First published in Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood international, Issue 51, Summer 2005.

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