The #hotfingers Challenge.

In usual true Tree House spirit we sometimes tend to spin off lines from songs to get that loving feeling going. A song from a classic film was started off by yours truly and a fellow dweller gave me the idea of challenging people to fingerspell one  extremely long word from a particular song. Can you guess which word it was??

Here is a chart to help you or a video by another beloved Tree House dweller.


Hence the birth of the #hotfingers challenge which encouraged several dwellers to learn finger spelling to complete their challenge and for some, even how to film themselves so they could form a part of this challenge. This completely humbled me just seeing the passion unfolding. Some of us had to do several takes because one swore and another screamed in frustration!

Last but not least who has kindly narrated throughout.

How would you finger spell this word, in your sign language? Please show us as we would love to learn from the various finger spelling manuals.

Carpe diem 🙂

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

(Photo credit to


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)

Ignorance is bliss. Not.

There is a story that I keep being reminded more frequently of these days due to the lack of deaf awareness and/or hearing aids being provided within the developing countries. I am finding myself becoming more frustrated due to the increasing volume of news in the media of a certain nature from overseas such as the killing of deaf, unarmed Iraqi teens and a deaf man being beaten by cops. They are sadly not the only ones which goes to show how societies urgently need to adapt. The sooner, the better.

A most kind and very patient lady once told me a story about a time when she was a little girl. She had heard on the news a situation about a man crossing a border in another land. The guards had been calling and shouting for him as he crossed the border. Unfortunately they were not acknowledged and he kept on walking. They relatively assumed that this man was posing a threat and was intentionally ignoring them. Hence deciding to shoot him – in the back. For fear that he was intending to carry out terrorist acts. It was only afterwards when they found out he was actually deaf but by then it was too late. For this innocent man who had been killed. This instance left such a mark on her memory and affected her enough to learn about deafness that she felt was a calling to her, to become a teacher for the deaf.

A quote by Mahatma Ghandi.

A quote by Mahatma Ghandi.

And I am extremely honoured, to have been taught by her.

There are charities such as SoundSeekers who are dedicated to helping deaf and hearing-impaired people, especially children, in the developing world. They develop and support projects that improve access to education, lessen the impact of hearing loss and raise awareness of deaf people’s abilities and needs. I admire them for their dedication and in turn, am being inspired by them to start fundraising for those in dire need of our assistance.

Here in the United Kingdom, we are extremely lucky to have the equipment and services readily available to access which sometimes may be somewhat delayed. Some people may believe that “charity begins at home” but they understandably believe that only due to not being informed that there are a quite a few charities already operating here – campaigning for these changes nationally. In order for us to make more of a difference in developing countries and help those who do not have any resources at all, it would be far more beneficial to them, if we could help those who are missing out even more so as most deaf people outside of Europe struggle to access even basic needs and are extremely isolated. In addition helping deaf people abroad gives deaf people within the UK & abroad, real life work (and cultural) experiences.

Watch this space! (Ta-Da!)

The next time you call someone from behind them or beep a horn at them and they don’t turn around in response – please…. spare a moment to consider that the person in front of you, may be deaf. Thank you.

This post, I would like dedicate to Suzanne. For listening to her calling and for making such a huge difference to deaf students lives – more than she realises.  Thank you – ever so. For being my teacher and for being you. (not to forget for putting up with my/our mischievousness too!)

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

To whom it may concern


To whom it may concern,

Due to a recent experience at a production, I have decided to try and give people an insight into one’s frustrations with being hearing impaired.

My family sat behind this particular row, of people who were familiar. Throughout the production, they decided to criticise and kept count of the other people talking or for making noises. Little did they know that I could understand everything they were saying about others. They were sat directly in front of me, talking with their heads bobbing which kept meeting, interrupting my view.

There I sat, thinking ‘Hold on, you’re talking about other people talking and you’re shaking your heads in dismay’….. Hmmmm.

By this point I had really managed to remain patient throughout most of the show.

I myself cannot hear to understand a word that is being said although I lip read very well, when I can see one’s mouth.

Enough was enough so I gently tapped one on their arm and kindly said ‘Can you stop talking please?’…..

Of course, she gave the dirtiest look one could and told the person seated next to her what I had said albeit with very negative body language…. This person then decided to sidle over and sit a certain way, blocking my view, totally.

I am not one to play games and my family knew I was extremely frustrated – I was advised to go home so I agreed to remove myself from the situation. This was, probably for the best.

This is only one example of the many, frustrations I experience during my life yet that one experience alone was the very last straw.

I tend not to demand an interpreter at every hospital appointment, GP’s appointment, exhibitions, productions or meetings. Another deaf adult who knows their rights would do all these things, and then some.

There are different levels and quality of education a deaf person receives throughout their school life which is not their fault but the Government’s and the education system. Just as it is their fault for not being deaf aware and/or instilling that awareness into the nation on an equal basis.

People are somewhat shocked when they learn I have deaf parents, my character is akin to that of a hearing person’s even though I can reside within both worlds. Usually, a deaf child from a deaf family is extremely hard work – being quite stubborn and very demanding. This is most probably due to the fact that they can communicate and express themselves freely, visually, within their own ‘deaf world’ whereas in the ‘hearing world’ some may not be as able to do so.

I find being in both the “hearing world” and “deaf world” it is restrictive and isolating. What with all the communication barriers I face on a daily basis. Hearing people will also feel the same level of isolation and restriction due to their own circumstances. For example a foreigner travelling and/or residing in a foreign land will be able to relate to me on quite a similar level yet they can overcome this barrier by learning the language. So perhaps our physical attributes has no relevance to the isolation but it certainly does contribute.

Some of the most common dismissive terms a deaf person will be told are “Never mind”. “I’ll tell you later”, “It doesn’t matter”, “It’s not important” and “Don’t worry”.

I encounter people giving me rude looks almost every day because they do not realise I have a hearing impairment. It is sometimes considered a hidden disability because we appear to be fine.

They stand behind me in the street, the bus, the supermarket, high street shops, asking or making comments to me yet they do not understand why I do not turn to acknowledge them. By the reaction of some people, they make judgements about me (as being rude or impolite) before knowing the truth only correcting themselves after seeing the hearing aids or being informed of my dilemma by present company.

My whole life as a hearing impaired person is one big frustration, but, I still have to live with it and get on with it the best I can.

I do not quite know how I can help the public more in raising deaf awareness. It is just, there are and will be adults who are uncomfortable around deaf people due to their fear of the unknown. Yet, there are also adults who will use it as an excuse, or an advantage, to ‘rub it in’. They understand enough to do so. I ‘see’ more than I want to sometimes. I see so much negativity, prejudice and ignorance that it disheartens me. But….. C’est la vie.

It is such a shame that one can assume another is ignorant, when it is actually their own ignorance that is impairing their judgement and character. Another word for this could be deemed as ‘discrimination’, depending on the environment. It only goes to show their true colours.

These days due to the shocking lack of deaf awareness and ignorance within society, I keep being reminded of a story told to me by a teacher of mine. As a young girl she saw something on the news… Guards at a border somewhere in a foreign land, was calling a man – from behind. But he kept on walking… The guards obviously made assumptions and made the quick decision to shoot him in the back. For fear that he was ignoring them in order to carry out terrorist acts. He died. The guards found out afterwards that he was actually deaf…. This affected her enough to become a teacher, for the deaf. And I am honoured to have been taught by her – Thank you. I sincerely hope this open letter of mine, will help you to remember one day, to consider that the person in front of you may have a hearing or sight impairment. No one is perfect.

Where might one ask these days, can you see respect and good manners? On that note, thank you very much, for your time and patience. May one’s frustrations be another person’s education.


A member of the public.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)