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City hosts Deaf Children's Development Conference

Conference showcases leading research in the field of language and cognitive development in deaf children
by Ben Sawtell

Earlier this week City University London hosted a research dissemination conference for work developed at the Deafness Cognition and Language Rearch Centre (DCAL). The aim of the meeting was to explain research findings in relevant and accessible ways to people who need to use findings from studies but might not read journal papers or attend academic conferences. The knowledge exchange day featured presentations from leading deaf and hearing researchers in the fields of developmental psychology, linguistics and neuroscience.

A packed audience which included members of the British deaf community, audiologists, speech and language therapists, teachers of the deaf and parents of deaf children heard presentations from the DCAL team and provided input on what direction research should take. Much of this work involves collaborations with experts from some of the UK's leading deaf and education groups.

DCAL is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and is collaboration between City University London and UCL researchers. It is the largest centre in this field in Europe with nearly forty staff and research students, including City's Professor of Psychology Gary Morgan who is the Centre's Deputy Director.

Professor Morgan presented his research into the early cognitive development of deaf children. His study compared the development of deaf and hearing children brought up in households where early communication skills of parents varied. The study was recently published in the journal Developmental Science. The researchers used eye-tracking technology and bespoke software to monitor and evaluate the understanding of other people's mental states and developmental difference between the two groups.

Professor Morgan said: "It was a very exciting and at times humbling conference because we took on the challenge of explaining complex research in accessible ways. We gave delegates three take home messages for each presentation and asked for their honesty in telling us where future research should be going."

Lilli Risner who was the organiser and inspiration for the event said: "Around 64 percent of deaf children leave primary school without the knowing basic sentences or arithmetic  which is appalling given there is no reason for a deaf child to not be on a par with hearing children.

"I wanted to organise this conference as I was frustrated with the lack of progress with deaf children's education attainment levels in the last twenty years. I really hope this conference will have a trickle-drip effect in hearing professionals working with deaf children to really understand what deaf children need."

Other speakers on the day:

  • Sue Archbold from the Ear Foundation
  • Simonetta Agnello-Hornby President of the Special Education Needs and Disability Court and a noted international lawyer and author.
  • Robin Ash a Community Development Team Manager for the British Deaf Association
  • Gwen Carr from the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme
  • Brigitte Francois, Director at SignVideo
  • Ros Herman, Senior Lecturer in Deafness and Hearing Impairment at City University London.
  • Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research for the National Deaf Children's Society
  • Hilary Sutherland a deaf research consultant

Find our more about DCAL and their work.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.