In both Jamaica and Pakistan we’re working to institute Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programmes… Training existing healthcare workers such as Lady Health Visitors and Community Midwives to undertake simple screening tests for D/deafness. If D/deafness is suspected then we’ll onward refer to a dedicated ear & hearing care capability – whose workforce, systems and infrastructure, we will have trained and developed, where confirmatory assessments are undertaken – including OAE & ABR tests, or audiograms for older children – and then a specific Care Plan for the newborn, infant or child concerned determined. This is likely to be a multi-disciplinary package of support comprising hearing aids, speech and language therapy, sign language and other communication skills. For the parents of D/deaf children, advice on communication and parenting skills so that they can bond and communicate with their child, thereby reducing the risk of abandonment and neglect. If there any specific ENT complications that need addressing, then we will refer the child to a tertiary hospital for the care they require.
All of this support is afforded within a safeguarding framework which sees all stakeholders – healthcare workers, clinicians, parents and wider family members, plus the children themselves – receive child protection, D/deaf awareness and communication skills support. This to ensure that ALL D/deaf children and young people are able to reduce their vulnerability to harm and to stay safe.
Through developing this approach, we’re working to demonstrate that DeafKidz International’s approach is both cost effective and sustainable; that through using existing human resources and infrastructures we’re keeping costs down but maximising healthcare worker skillsets and capabilities. Furthermore, that through engaging Ministerial decision makers, we’re able to realise long term sustainability as EHDI practice becomes incorporated into national health care plans and delivered as a public health ‘standard’… This enabling D/deaf children to maximise the hearing they have and to, ultimately, fulfil and realise their potentials. As you’d expect, underpinning all of this work, is the collation of data with which to evidence impact, inform learning and shape future practice. Empirical data – quantitative and qualitative – that helps us to design community and participative services for the long term which precipitate systematic, procedural and attitudinal change… And if that means changing the law, as we’re seeking to do in Pakistan so that EHDI becomes enshrined in statute, then we’ll do it. Because as an organisation of D/deaf people that’s what we’re about… Ensuring D/deaf children and young people have access to the ear & hearing care provision, in the communication mode of choice, that they require.
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