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The deaf child and family team

Pathfinder community and specialist mental health unit, London


12 / 1994

Over 80% of children and families referred live in the South East of England. At assessment over 50% of children experience significant adversity in their families. Almost 90% of children are either profoundly or severely deaf. There are a small number of hearing children seen who are either children of deaf parents or have psychogenic deafness. Almost 60% of children seen use sign language alone and almost 20% use signed and spoken language together. The reminding 20% use spoken language but often have a good understanding of sign language. Very few parents that we see are skilled in sign language and we routinely use a sign language interpreter in our assessments and family meetings. Approximately 75% of children come from Caucasian families.

As far as possible,all assessments are multidisciplinary and involve both deaf and hearing staff.

Just over a third of children have mixed disorders of conduct and emotion and just under 25% disorders of conduct alone. Just over 10% of children seen are suffering from autism or atypical autism. Just over 15% have emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder. Just under 5% have psychotic disorders such as bipolar affective disorder or schizophrenia. Just under 5% have no psychiatric disorder at assessment.

In just over 25% of referrals we offer assessment only. Our commonest intervention is family work (25%)in which we explore difficulties in communication - both verbal and emotional - and feeling and attitudes towards the deaf child within the family. At time such interventions may include advice about managing behaviour. Roughly 15% of children are offered individual counselling, both weekly or fortnightly at our outpatient department and less frequently on our visits to schools such counselling is supported by regular meeting with the child’s parent or caretaker. Roughly 10% of referrals are offered combined family work and individual counselling. A further 8% of families are offered family behavioural work and just under 5% are prescribed specific drug treatments such as antipsychotic or antidepressant medication.

Amongst the remaining referrals there was a significant worsening of difficulties in approximately 7%. In the main these were families without off control teenagers in which family breakdown occured. In just over two thirds of referrals there was a significant improvement in the child or families difficulties following intervention. These changes have been in children’s behaviour and feelings as well as in relationships within the family.

Key words

communication, mental health, child, family, psychological assistance

, United Kingdom, London


The deaf child and family team provides the only psychiatric service in the UK specifically for deaf children and their families. This paper reviews the first 129 referrals. These children experience a wide range of psychiatric disorders and often experience additional social and medical risk factors. The team is multidisciplinary and bicultural being staffed by both deaf and hearing professionals and provides a multidisciplinary, bicultural psychiatric service to deaf children and their families. It offers a range of interventions, as deemed appropriate by the child and family needs.


GESTES Groupe d’Etude Spécialisé "Thérapies et Surdités"organised in Paris the ESMHD European Society for Mental Health and Deafnessthird international congress, on december 1994. The publication of the proceedings will occur later on.

Written from the speech of Peter HINDLEY, consultant child and adolescents psychiatrist, Pathfinder Deaf Services, Springfield Hospital, 61 Glenburnie Road, London SW 17 7DJ, UNITED KINGDOM. Adults 00 44 081 784 2773 Children 00 44 081 682 6925 Minicom 00 44 081 784 2705 Fax 00 44 081 784 2708


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GESTES (Groupe d’Etudes Spécialisé Thérapies et Surdité) - 8 rue Michel Peter, 75013 Paris, FRANCE. Tel/Fax 00(331)43 31 25 00 - France - gestes (@)

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