IM this article to a friend!

April 5, 2004


From: Bath Chronicle - Bath,England,UK - Apr 5, 2004


11:00 - 05 April 2004

It Is difficult to appreciate what living in a world of silence really means for young people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Without hearing, conversation can be a struggle, but it is through conversation that friendships are made.

And if communication is a problem, life can be very lonely.

To help break the potential isolation that deaf youngsters face, Bath Deaf Club plans to set up a deaf youth group.

And it already has the backing of one Bath teenager, Meg Alexander.

Meg is 14 and lives in Weston, Bath. She was born deaf and her experience of growing up has been vastly different to that of her elder sister Chloe, who is 16 and has full hearing.

Mum Carrie said: "Their access to everything is so completely different.

"It is incredibly frustrating as a mother who has two children who want to go out and get going in the world and one keeps hitting barriers and the other is on her way, becoming increasingly independent.

"People don't know how to talk to deaf kids and they are often very isolated.

"I have never known my daughter to question whether or not she wants to be deaf. It is not the silence. What frustrates her is the isolation.

"It is so important for deaf kids to have a peer group and to be able to develop their independence and interests in exactly the same way as hearing children."

Although Meg has many friends at her weekly boarding school in St Albans, Hertfordshire, the club would make it easier for youngsters like her to meet people closer to home.

Meg said: "For deaf teenagers, it is hard to find things to do and it is hard to get involved.

"I can sign but lip-reading is hard. I would like to take part in activities and groups and going out doing things.

"I like going out with friends to the shops, talking to my friends and chatting.

"People need more deaf awareness. It helps if you don't talk too fast and look people in the eye and use gesture or write it down if you need to."

The Bath Deaf Club meets on the first Saturday of every month.

It recently moved from the Green Park Day Centre to the Riverside Youth and Community Centre, off London Road.

The club holds social events for the family, such as a Christmas party and an Easter party, which took place on Saturday.

It was paid for by a sponsored walk organised by club members and supporters and the money raised helped to provide face-painting, a bouncy castle, a barbecue and games.

Julianne Mackrell is one of the hearing volunteers who helps at the club.

She said: "The activities are for families with youngsters so they can get to know each other with the aim of having a youth section later this year."

The plan is to recruit a youth worker to run a club specifically for young people. This will be held at Riverside on a fortnightly basis for young people from the Bath and West Wiltshire area. Adverts have already gone out for a trainee who would either learn sign language or know it already and it is hoped that they will be in place by the summer.

Meanwhile, the deaf group will consult parents and guardians to find out which age ranges to cater for and what their needs are.

John Mancini, 32, of Oldfield Park, said it was just the sort of group he would have appreciated as a young deaf boy growing up.

He said: "I never went to youth clubs or mixed with other children and that was because it was difficult for me to communicate.

"I would play with the other children but actually communicating was very basic.

"It is very important. All my family signed so it didn't really affect me, but there are a lot of deaf children whose parents can't communicate with them very well or can't sign so they can feel very isolated and lonely and do not have many friends. So I do think it is very important that they can mix and communicate."

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd.