English - A chance to be heard

The Life and Deaf project gives children a voice through poetry

Jo Knowsley

For deaf children, the world of ordinary life and school can sometimes seem an unfathomable and frustrating mystery.

But the Life and Deaf Association, set up by two specialist speech and language therapists in 2006, has found a way to help them express their feelings and improve their lives - and that of their families - through poetry.

There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK and more than 95 per cent of them are born to hearing parents. Life and Deaf has found that, by using art and performance in English and British Sign Language, it can help children to celebrate youth, freedom of expression and cultural diversity, and create poetry with a difference.

With funding from Greenwich Council, it has produced a film, That's Not All of Me. Extracts from more than 50 poems written by deaf children from across the UK have been woven together to create the powerful, seven-minute work, which will be shown on 29 March, along with other creative work, at the Purcell Room in the Southbank Centre in London.

For the 15-year-old star of the film, Nadeem Islam, writing his first poem in 2006 had a profound impact.

"Life and Deaf is the greatest thing I ever experienced, because of the way deaf people open themselves up via poems, which is different and unusual," he says. "I thought I was the only one who had to deal with 'life'. Life and Deaf is trying to keep deaf children united and strong about our experiences."

Born to hearing English and Bengali-speaking parents, Nadeem has an older sister who is deaf and two sisters who are hearing, and mostly communicates using spoken English, Sign Supported English (English with signs for key words) and British Sign Language, although he has also learned to speak Bengali.

Recently, he wrote a poem in memory of his father who died when he was a child. "My feeling is on my sleeves and I thought 'I want to get this out', so I decided to do it in a perfect way," he says. "I do feel like my dad is proud of me and happy about me doing this, spreading my power around the world."

Through Life and Deaf, Nadeem feels he has "achieved highly". "We have made a wonderful film with lovely crew. It made me so happy," he says.

For information, please email info@lifeanddeaf.co.uk

The film will be available free on www.lifeanddeaf.co.uk from 30 March. An exhibition showcasing the film, lines of poetry, photography and artwork will run throughout April at the Greenwich Picturehouse cinema in South London

What else?

For more information, free tickets to the Southbank event, a free downloadable poetry workbook and other resources see www.lifeanddeaf.co.uk

Get signing in the classroom, with the TES sign language resource collection - help deaf students to feel included.

Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources027

From the forums

In the TES English forum there is a call for feedback on what kind of lesson plans you need to support creative writing at key stage 3.

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Jo Knowsley

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