Come In Take A Seat I’m All “Hears” by Wendy Bebb-Sutton

Firstly I should introduce myself, I was born hearing, but following an accident at the age of sixteen, I lost almost all of that hearing. I wear two hearing aids, which, up until the age of forty I kept well hidden under my hair. After a complete lifestyle change at that time I no longer hid my aids, I finally arrived at the stage in my life where it wasn’t a secret, I was deaf, if my aids offended anyone, well that was their problem.

A visit to the theatre in Bristol one evening sparked the interest in sign language. The performance was enjoyed by the hearing in the theatre and the deaf, thanks to the lady stood on the side of the stage, who acted as interpreter . So where did I fit in? The answer was , I didn’t. For the first time in my life I realised that I needed to face my deafness. I struggled to understand conversation even with the use of hearing aids, indeed so many times I would nod, smile or even just say yes, when really I had no inkling of what was being said.

That theatre visit turned my life around, I knew then I wanted to be able to sign. So after attending various different colleges, I am now more than happy to communicate using BSL. I am also lucky that my partner also learned alongside me, thus making our communication now for the bigger part, sign. Well time moves along and I have reached the stage that when I have hospital procedures I use an interpreter, this is not an option but a necessity. I spent too many years relying on my partner listening to doctors or consultants, I now accept my deafness.

The question that I have asked myself recently is……”how comfortable is a deaf person, with an interpreter present at what can be, very personal times?” How many of us deaf folks lip read quite well, at least I do, but NOT with all people, it can be a real struggle. Sometimes, however, it is not always appropriate to have another person present, I for one have no idea of the confidentiality issues involved with an interpreter, indeed have no idea where I would find this information from. This uncertainty of another person at my appointments came to a head a few years ago, when I attended my first visit to a counsellor. This lady is hearing and was made aware of my deafness by my partner. So, from the onset we were both aware of our sensory differences. Well, I was extremely lucky, I find her quite easy to lip read , I don’t think my deafness has been an issue for her, however for me there have been issues that only perhaps the deaf or indeed a someone who needs to talk to a counsellor would understand. As everyone who uses BSL to communicate knows, facial expressions, body language and placement are a must, this involves face to face conversations. Likewise, if lip reading a hearing person you will need to watch the face of the speaker. This was, and is my stumbling block, I think that the majority of people when taking about something they are not comfortable with do NOT want to look at the other person. I must spend at least half my counselling session staring at the most uninteresting walls. This is a double edged sword, I am either embarrassed, ashamed or quite simply unable to look at my counsellor at these times. Which I believe is quite natural for all of us when in an uncomfortable situation, I find this thoroughly frustrating, I DO NOT want to make eye contact. Given that the only way I know what is being said, I MUST look at my counsellor. A difficult situation overall.

What comes to mind for me is the recent changes in the Welsh government laws that introduce accessibility for all. Surely questions need to be asked about the numbers of counsellors who are BSL users, I have tried in my limited capacity to find out the figures; I am given to understand there is a deaf lady counsellor in South Wales, however she works in Bristol, hardly easily accessible. The whole dynamics of mental health support from a patients perspective has dramatically reduced its services and availability in the last few years. Indeed our help through the avenue of counselling is limited to the magical ‘six sessions’ hoping to resolve matters and that’s IF the client has no communication needs.

So, given the fragile structure of the NHS in the counselling and mental health sector, exactly how does a deaf person cope in this situation? Well, for my part, I am incredibly lucky, I have a counsellor who gives me time, is patient, never rushes me, ensures when I can’t lip read certain words or phrases, to say explain using words I can follow. I am incredibly lucky to have someone who has given above and beyond what one would expect; sadly I am in the minority.

So my deaf friends, don’t hesitate to demand your accessibility, it’s your right. The need is there, for more counsellors who use BSL, maybe more deaf in this profession, certainly interpreters at sessions if we are happy with that situation. The name of my counsellor……….. no sorry folks, I won’t share, after all I have my own deaf friendly who ‘hears’ me. Go on, demand your deaf rights, accessibility for all.

~ Wendy Bebb-Sutton.

Wendy Bebb-Sutton




Following on from last year’s extremely successful festival, Incloodu (pronounced/signed as include you) returns with an even higher quality event with a theme of ‘Working together’.

This year Incloodu will illustrate examples of Deaf, HoH and hearing collaborating to create a unique window on what can be achieved through collaboration, alongside of work produced/performed solely by Deaf artists.

We are sure that both evening and daytime events will be a memorable occasion for everyone involved. This really is a ‘not to be missed’ event for anyone interested in visual or performing arts.

We are very excited about the debut showcase The Vibrating Chairs; there will be five of them. A working diagram. is on our FB page. Designed by Robert Jack, a PhD student in sound engineering at Queen Mary College specialising in, making music accessible without sound, has designed a chair that enables you to experience vibrations across a wide range of frequencies.

In the past, we have seen vibrating dance floors and hand held vibrating units that only really work with effectively with ‘bass’ frequencies. These chairs which are ergonomically designed to enable you to experience the rhythm and vibration of music right across the frequency range through the use of strategically placed pads that correspond to the parts of your body that react to different pitches of sound i.e.; Bass is felt most in the abdomen whilst the higher frequency and mid-range sounds are best experienced at various positions on the spine.

We cannot wait to get feedback from your experience of this.

There are far too many acts and workshops to list here. However, please do feel free to have a look at the websites (below) of some of the people involved who are all committed to raising awareness of creative work arising from the broad-spectrum deaf community.

Hope to see you all there on the day!

Mark Bushell, Ruby Sehra, Amanda Jane Richards – Incloodu Directors


Mark Smith – Deaf Men Dancing.

DJ Chris Tofu

Nao Masuda – Music in motion.

Analema Group.

Fun, Fundraising and Fire at the Tree House BBQ


Poster by Mark Bushell.

We recently held a Summer BBQ party for Tree House members and friends at SJ’s request since this was her aspiration. We thought it would be fun to eat lovely barbecued food and homemade cakes with great company, whilst raising funds for the charity Sound Seekers. This is a small UK-based charity, which helps deaf and hard of hearing children in Africa by providing hearing aids, audiology services and deaf education, all things we take for granted here in the UK.

Tree House BBQ_header

We had all been looking forward to this for a long time and the Tree House events team had been preparing for it for several weeks. Promotional flyers had been made, tickets sold, food bought and prepared and raffle prizes donated by local shops and cafés.

We would like to give special thanks to our local butcher ‘Quality and Excellence’ in Theydon Bois for providing the meat, to the ‘Green Owl Café’ in Buckhurst Hill, ‘Chigwell Health Foods’ and my mum for donating raffle prizes, as well as to the many Tree House members who prepared food, baked homemade cakes and gave up their valuable time to help out on the day.

In order to make this event accessible to all the deaf and hard of hearing people there, we are also very grateful to Carol, the professional lipspeaker, who voluntarily gave up her own Saturday to be with us and provide lipspeaking and BSL interpreter support to assist the communication and interpret the talks for us. On behalf of the Tree House, we would like to thank Lesley Pizzey Weatherson-Emm from Lipspeaker UK for organising this.

TH BBQ blog_Carol

Thankfully, that afternoon the sun came out and the rain held off. We all sat in the garden and enjoyed ourselves, chatting away and meeting new friends. It was great that there didn’t seem to be any communication barriers despite the fact that as a group we ranged from hearing people to hard of hearing and deaf people with various communication methods.

I (Richard) was kept busy barbecuing the food, ably assisted by Mark Bushell and others. It was a great team effort with several Tree House members all helping out serving the food and drinks.

TH BBQ_Richard Mark

After we had eaten we all gathered round to hear Emily Bell from Sound Seekers talk about the work they do in Africa to help and support deaf children there. Carol provided excellent lipspeaking and BSL interpreting to Emily’s talk to make it accessible to everyone. It was very interactive and interesting, as Emily kept involving us by asking us lots of questions. She explained that through lack of educational and therefore employment opportunities, combined with a lack of audiological support, deaf and hard of hearing people in poor countries were likely to be some of the poorest and most disadvantaged in society.

She gave us examples of the work that Sound Seekers do to try and improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people in the African countries where they work. They partner with hospitals to develop audiology services. They do this by training existing nurses to provide basic audiology services, as well as organising volunteer audiologists (often from the UK) to visit them to provide them with refresher training and teach them new skills.

TH blog_audiologist 2

They also partner with schools for the deaf to improve their capacity through specialised teacher training and sign language training, as well as upgrading their facilities. She also talked about a project they are running in Sierra Leone to provide targeted screening of under-18s, who have increased risk of hearing loss. This provides them with the appropriate audiological and educational support that they need.

I was really surprised to learn that people in the countries where Sound Seekers work are much more likely to be deaf than in the UK because of hearing damage caused by preventable diseases, ear infections and medicines causing hearing loss, which often go undetected for years, often until it is too late to treat them. She said that the World Health Organisation estimates that up to 50% of hearing loss cases could be prevented, and many of them very early on, if young children were screened at an early age. This is why Sound Seekers are working with teachers and community health workers, (including a new project in Zambia) to deliver key messages about ear and health care in their local community.

TH blog_Emily in Africa

She also described a project they have in Gambia & Sierra Leone where they are working with mainstream schools to train teachers on deaf awareness and what they should do if they suspect a child in their class of having hearing loss. Often children with a moderate hearing loss are left behind in the enormous mainstream classes, with many dropping out altogether. This project is designed to keep those children in school.

TH blog_Soundseeker school

Emily’s talk left a great impression on all of us, as we realised how lucky we are in the UK to have access to free hearing aids, cochlear implants, audiology, education and hearing screening through the NHS and our local authorities. This makes a massive difference to people’s educational achievements, career ambitions and general quality of life.

After the talk I thanked everyone for coming, donating or volunteering on the day, which was followed by our raffle and cake sale to raise more money for Sound Seekers. Lizzie, Sarah and Jeanie did a fantastic job selling their cakes and serving tea and coffee. They had decorated their cake table beautifully too, making such an effort. Mary Berry would be very proud of them!

TH blog_Lizzie Sara Jeanie

In the evening, several of us stayed there until late, having great fun playing the African drums provided by Mark from Incloodu. We all had such a good time banging on those drums and enjoying ourselves by the warmth of a big open fire blazing away.  It was wonderful to take part and watch others having a go. Michael Theobald’s unique style of drumming was legendary and he made us all laugh, as you can see in the You Tube video here (which was made by Sara Jae).

This is the first time that the Tree House has held a fundraising event like this, and we’re all really pleased that it has been such a success. We also managed to raise about £700 for Sound Seekers, which is fantastic! Thank you to everyone for getting involved in such a passionate way and to Emily from Sound Seekers for coming along and giving such a great talk about such a wonderful charity.

The next day I was really moved by the words of Sara Jae from the Tree House about it, which I now want to share with you all:

“It was such an honour to be present and realise just how much of an effect Sound Seekers is creating in Africa, for the better. But on this occasion, it was with our help via the Tree House and its members seizing the day to donate and sacrifice some valuable personal time for the cause. Yet for those who could not come, they were there in spirit”.

TH BBQ header_fire

We’re looking forward to many more ‘Tree House’ events in the future, whether they are for fundraising, fun or both. To quote Sara and the Tree House motto ‘Carpe Diem!

by Richard and Joanna Turner

To find out more information about Sound Seekers and to make a donation, please click here:

The Tree House would like to thank Mrs J.E.Turner, Mrs C.Holland, Mr Ian Hore, Joanna Gretton, Eloise Garland, Lauren Harris and Steve Bell for their kind donations and raffle prizes. Also, we would like to thank the following very kind local businesses for their generous raffle prize donations and support for this event, as well as Chigwell Health Foods. Last, but certainly not least, we thank Mark Bushell from Incloodu for bringing his African drums:


Update: A note from the founder and owner of ‘The Tree House’ – some of the people featured on this entry are no longer associated with The Tree House for several reasons. Thank you for your time and patience. 

Favourite BSL Signs

Greetings, beautiful Tree House dwellers and passing admirers (it’s a beautiful tree, come and see for yourself!).

The other week, we asked the dwellers of the Tree to say what their favourite BSL signs are, and to do a video of themselves signing them – if they wanted to, that is!

Below is the result…and there will be more to come, as a few of us have yet to make our videos. Pop back a little later in the week for more signs! Enjoy, and get those fingers flexing…

We hope you have had a great Sunday, and have a fantastic week!

Lots of love from the Tree House dwellers.

Sarah Ward x

“Happy” Days!

Thank you ever so to our Technical Support, for helping us to produce this delightful video and to our daughters for being so brave in signing this against their usually extremely shy nature at their school’s summer fair.

We wish each and every one of you a very “Happy” day – every day!

Guaranteed to make you smile and feel good.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

The Phantom of the Deaf Community is Here!

And in this labyrinth
where night is blind
the Phantom of the deaf community is here,
Inside your mind…!



British language sign English BSL

I have feeling something lots to tell/give?


Access barriers, barriers, wall, barriers all access.

Not ___ hearing people. Own deaf sign British language rich. All aware nothing, like fools, all British feel ___ hearing talking but how deaf feel improve nothing feel second best/lower class.

All campaign most miss best disappoint deaf community but deaf community strong power not enough. We want more power. This very important to deaf community/


We have British genes being passed onto our children. We have worries over future deaf schools close close how we keep open campaign so hearing people recognise. That it. Their eyes opens.

Deaf feel lost go to hospital, poor, doctor, poor, happen absorb communication breakdown. How we make it smooth?

Feel disappointed have British but feel second class.

Let us campaign improve services for deaf future to keep / remember.

Who am I?

Cant tell. You find out.

I British full deaf person in community.

Thank you. “

Power Deaf, who made this video has more on their FB profile page.

Will there be a new sensation within the deaf community? Time will tell and he refuses to reveal his identity yet we are certain we know who he is – He can try to run but he can’t hide.

Is the standard of English in deaf schools lower than those in mainstream schools?

After Sara Jae left a school for the deaf to finish her education at a mainstream school, she found she felt less frustrated with her studies as there seemed to be more to discover, absorb and learn. Hence why this question (as titled) was raised the other day on our Facebook group by Sara because from her personal experience – which several other members concurred with, their English fared better since choosing to leave schools for the deaf to attend mainstream schools. In mainstream, everyone is naturally pushed by the teachers to meet a standard of their very best whereas in deaf schools, there seems to be a limit that the teachers will try to push deaf students to and then stop.

This led most to agree that it is actually down to the type of support and teaching which is what makes the difference in our English standards which rings true with many people’s personal experiences. Which reinforces Sara’s reasons behind wanting an approved governing body for deaf issues, in the UK. Meanwhile….

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has a campaign “Hands up for Help”, to give deaf children a fair chance at school, a report of theirs contains these facts:

  • There are 35,000 deaf children in England.
  • Around 85% are taught in mainstream schools.
  • Deafness is not a learning disability. With the right help, there is no reason why deaf children can’t do as well as other children.
  • Deaf children are underachieving on a very significant scale across England. They are 43% less likely to get five GCSEs, including English and Maths, at grades A* to C, than all children.
  • The help a deaf child gets is determined by where they live, and not what they need.

Their last fact rings alarm bells to us because sources mention the national average reading age is approx. 12/13 and elsewhere, lower. Education, nationally, appears to have become alarmingly more slack.

There was also a study which looked into the reading skills in deaf (oral) children, comparing them with hearing children who have Dyslexia. They are following this up with a similar study, students who use sign language . Here is a summary as stated on their research to practice paper:

Q: What measures can be used to identify dyslexia in oral deaf children? Are deaf children’s reading difficulties similar to the typical dyslexic profile, or do some deaf children display uniquely dyslexic profiles? What are the key factors associated with good and poor reading in this group? What are the implications for interventions with poor deaf readers?


“Literacy difficulties are more widespread among deaf* children than hearing children but reasons for their problems differ. Hearing children are likely to be described as dyslexic and once diagnosed, may benefit from specialist support. However, for deaf children, their hearing difficulties are seen as primary. In this Briefing Paper, we report findings from the first stage of our research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, which has focused exclusively on oral deaf children. In the next phase, we will investigate deaf children who use sign language to communicate.

Our analysis identified half of our group of oral deaf children as having reading difficulties. We were able to identify dyslexia sensitive measures and deaf children with dyslexic profiles; however, not all were amongst the poorest readers. Our findings highlight the scale of reading difficulty in oral deaf children and point to an urgent need for specialist intervention to be implemented along the lines currently offered to hearing children with dyslexia.”

*The terms ‘deaf’ and ‘hearing impaired’ are often used with this group. We use the term ‘deaf’ here to refer to individuals with a pre-lingual severe-profound degree of hearing loss, i.e. one that is present at or shortly after birth.

Josh Hillman, of the Nuffield Foundation, said the report “reveals the extent to which the education system is currently failing to address the needs of deaf children with reading difficulties” (as stated on the BBC’s article “Poor reading ‘points to UK schools’ neglect of deaf.’“)

Mary Hare School is the only school in the UK to offer specialist teaching and facilities supporting the full curriculum to deaf children from 4 to 19 years of age. The Ofsted report, January 2014 commented:

Pupils make better progress from Year 7 to Year 11 in English and mathematics than all other pupils nationally who have a statement of special educational needs. Progress in developing oral communication skills is outstanding.”

The grammar structure within British Sign Language (BSL) differs to the structure used in English. BSL for a start has a different sign order to English word order. BSL normally uses topic-comment structure which defines the topic before commenting further on it. However its default word order when topic-comment structure is no longer used due to the topic being established, is OSV : Object, Subject. Verb. Whereas English structure is Subject, Verb, Object. (SVO)

For example:

BSL: Him she loves.

English: She loves him.

There are also “multi channel” signs which is when one sign can mean a whole sentence.

The general consensus amongst the wider community is that deaf people are a bit backwards, that they have learning difficulties. Imagine a completely deaf child trying to learn words and then trying to learn how to write them in an English structure. It is hard – they have never heard it said so they cannot link what they see to sounds. Hence why it is rather confusing for them.

This naturally will contribute to the fundamental differences many struggle with. Seeing how the words & sentence structure are formed in something as simple as a childrens TV program, or even a bog standard ‘continuing drama’ (soap!) can help a child to connect the written words to context and sounds. For some, they think their reading, spelling and vocabulary skills were helped by seeing the subtitles. Why is reading a book with your child encouraged? For many reasons, one of those reasons is so that the child can relate the written word to the sound. Subtitles and captions achieve the same thing yet visually. It is rather unfortunate that cinemas, most TV channels and programmes will not provide them 24/7. It benefits everyone as sadly, it is not just deaf children who may leave school with low literacy skills.

Subtitles are in fact, extremely educational.

Subtitles are in fact, extremely educational.

Differentiation is paramount for any teacher but even more so for a teacher who works with deaf and additional needs children. They prepare lots of different levels of work for any one class. Unfortunately, sometimes there may be cases where teachers will give the whole class the same level of work – this goes in two ways. On one hand – those of higher abilities may suffer a lag in their education, on the other hand – those of lower abilities aren’t able to keep up with the work, causing them to become frustrated.

The logical way forward would be to split the groups – deaf children of ‘normal’ abilities, and then deaf children with additional needs. Unfortunately there aren’t enough deaf children entering deaf education to start with. So those that are, are grouped together regardless of their individual abilities and needs.

Parents’ contribution is vitally important, all too often parents neglect their child’s educational needs. Language is paramount, particularly in the early years. Sometimes it is left to the schools to clean up the mess of children’s minds. It is not the same for all parents of deaf children because most will be brilliantly supportive and work hard to ensure they push their child’s intellectual capabilities. Another downfall would be the teachers themselves (in some cases) who may have the ‘poor deaf child’ approach and spoon feed them answers and so forth, others come in too harsh and the children struggle to grasp what is being taught particularly if the said teacher is unable to sign and the children are predominantly sign language users. With deaf children some would feel they need a steady but sure approach to their education with the aim of pushing them slightly beyond their expected capabilities.

Education in deaf schools can be good but they and the parents have got to get it right from the very start. Recognise when it is appropriate to use BSL or SSE (Signed Supported English). For example, someone worked with a teacher who believed in teaching English with SSE. She respected BSL but when the children entered the English classroom she believed that BSL should be left at the door. She wanted the children to be able to utilise both BSL and English and to be able to fluently move between the two. In the ‘big wide world’ BSL is not predominantly used, English is, so if a person is a fluent sign language user and isn’t confident with their speaking abilities they can take a pen to paper confidently (or email). Yet, if a deaf person is empowered by English and they can write – a hearing person may well think ‘Oh! This person does possess intelligence’.

A hypothesis – what would happen if all deaf children were to enter mainstream schools (which in the long run will cost the councils more money). When some of those children start to struggle and develop behavioural problems they will be placed in deaf schools. The deaf school then gets blamed for their poor education, when in fact they are fighting hard to correct earlier misfortunes. Teachers in mainstream schools will not be adequately equipped to teach deaf children without any hearing or speech. Specialist support workers will be needed. Deaf children will be behind their classmates. On the other hand some of the children were in the deaf schoosl right from the age of 3 until they left and they did excellently – why? Because they received the right education for them consistently all the way through and they had the support of their parents at home, like Asher Woodman-Worrell did and he shared with us, his views:

“I was educated in deaf school all of my life, I believe the part of the problem is that all pupils who do well in mainstream schools tend to stay on, most of mainstream ‘rejects’ tend to get sent to deaf schools however it is difficult to get pupils who struggled in mainstream up to the speed and back at the level that their literacy and numeracy should be. Their confidence, self-belief and behaviour issues also will be massively affected and it will be a slow process to get them confident once again.

This meant the resources are very spread out from getting former mainstream pupils back up to the speed, educating both pupils who were educated in deaf schools all of their life and former mainstream pupils to catch up with whatever level their literacy and numeracy should be at due to delayed language acquisition from their childhood (that is an another subject altogether!) and concentrating on meeting needs of deaf pupils with additional special needs such as cerebral palsy.

I was in a class of 5-7 pupils all with a wide range of ability levels and this placed a restriction on other each’s education as sometimes I would have to wait for others to catch up in Science while a classmate who is good at Maths would have to wait for rest of us to catch up on an exercise. If deaf schools attract more pupils, they would have more funding and they will be able to spend on more staff and resources thus creating more classes for pupils to be in according to their ability level so the pace will be similar for everybody.

This is a common problem for all deaf schools yet Mary Hare School tends to do a bit better than the rest as I believe they are more well off so they are able to spend their resources better and they also used to have entrance exams (I think they do not longer have these now) so they only accept pupils with reasonable ability levels.”

It is always very saddening. to read that funding is the main common relative behind the scenes. The current SEN (Special Education Needs) system will be reformed into the “Education, Health & Care Plan.” This will give parents a new right to buy in specialist special educational needs (SEN) and disabled care for children from 2014, the biggest change to SEN for 30 years. As stated on the press release for the Department of Education:

“For the first time ever, parents will be given the power to control personal budgets for their children with severe, profound or multiple health and learning – meaning they can choose the expert support that is right for their child, instead of local authorities (LAs) being the sole provider.

The biggest reform of SEN for 30 years will also force education, health and social care services to plan services together by law – so when their children are assessed, parents will be assured they will get full provision to address their children’s needs.

Often it is not clear to parents, and to local services, who is responsible for delivering on the statement of special needs. Services such as speech and language therapy may appear in the statement but are funded and commissioned by local health services.

It is important to recognise the child’s ability from very early on both at home and socially as this is the crucial contributing factor in sending them to the appropriate schools as early as possible, in order to maximise their potential – to the best of their abilities. And most importantly, a school that also suits the child’s needs and character.

There are some wonderful teachers out there who thrive to do the very best by their students and we hope they are filled with pride whenever they realise their career choices, helped to mould us into who we are.

Thank you to those who contributed their views on “The Tree House” which helped to make this possible.

Thank you readers, for sparing moments to read this post.  – please feel free to follow us on Twitter @treehouseviews and join our Facebook group by clicking on the link *here.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)