Responses in the US and the UK: “Hey, you lip-read? Cool!”.
In Ireland – “Erm, umm, emm, this is new to me!”
Necessity led a group of Gen Xers (mainstreamed as deaf children), to set up Irish Deaf Kids to educate the Irish public on the diversity in the deaf population.
Tired of explaining themselves as verbal deaf people to new acquaintances they met at college, work and when socialising, they felt a solution was needed.
Another issue concerned Team Irish Deaf Kids. If the public was unaware deaf people can be verbal, did families with a baby newly identified as being deaf know all their options?
Today’s newborn hearing tests, digital hearing devices and early intervention mean it’s fully possible for babies to learn to listen and speak, just as Team IDK did in their own childhoods.
Parents – and educators – needed to know this, particularly with the government backing mainstream education for children with disability in the 2004 EPSEN Act. Simultaneously, digital tools were leveling access to education and to workplaces for children and young people with hearing issues.
In March 2007, Caroline Carswell responded to a call from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI), who wanted to invest in people with solutions to social problems.
Eight months later, the irishdeafkids.ie website went live, with €5k in funding from SEI.
Families with deaf children in Ireland finally had an online network to learn about informed choices, to read of the Visiting Teacher home-school liaison service,
and to evaluate cochlear implants as an option for hearing.
Two years after start-up, IDK received Ireland’s Education eGovernment award (2010) for achieving cross-sector collaboration, cost-savings and efficiencies through its service. That year, IDK’s book for children, “A Birthday For Ben” (2009), was animated by ITV, with the app following in 2012.
What Is IDK?
IDK is an online learning-network whose social media presence has managed to mainstream hearing issues to the general public, as confirmed by a broadcast media manager in Dublin (May 2013). A team of professional volunteers contribute to the website’s operations and help at events as relevant.
From a very early stage, IDK believes parents, families and schools need to empower young children and teens with hearing issues to be confident and speak up for their needs. To do this, these initial mentors must learn about hearing themselves, and know how to respond to potential situations, which is where IDK comes in.
Further along a family’s path, IDK’s life-skills workshops for young people and their parents introduce successful young deaf adults and professionals to these parent-teen groups, who share their personal strategies for building communication and for confidently challenging negative perceptions when these issues arise.
At operational level, IDK differs from Ireland’s other deaf groups in being innovative as a venture, and geared to a mainstream audience to discover the ‘modern’ way for young deaf children, students and graduates who use technology to find their personal potential and to reach their life goals.
Discover IDK’s inner workings in the UK’s Journal of Inclusive Practice (Conference Edition, 2013).
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Written by Caroline Carswell