The majority of the deaf children trained by Deafax in a Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) lesson do not recognise the word ‘contraception’ or indeed understand what it means. Even when we subsequently taught them the word, writing it down and demonstrating the sign along with a definition, they were still unable to recall it correctly, instead using the words ‘concept’, ‘conception’ and ‘construction’ in its place. Yet, there is far less confusion about the word condom which most pupils recognised and could spell and sign.

When these children eventually leave school and need to start thinking about and using a form of contraception, how will they know where to look for it independently in a chemist unless they actually know the word for ‘contraception’? Hearing children tend to develop the vocabulary for these terms through discussions with peers, over-hearing things and through listening to the media. This is not possible for the majority of deaf children.

To even say the word ‘con-tra-cep-tion’ is challenging for a deaf person. Good speech therapy, an attentive and open-minded teacher, parent or role model willing to work on developing their pronunciation of the word will help, but it still remains difficult for them to convey its meaning. Learning new vocabulary takes considerable energy and requires determination from deaf children. How can we make it easier?

It is embarrassing to discover one is ignorant of the meaning of a word such as ‘contraception’, but deaf-friendly exposure to SRE vocabulary can boost knowledge and confidence in communicating the topic with ease and competence. With the correct signed vocabulary these children can enter adulthood equipped with a way to access information and further learning.

Let us not forget the Teachers. They also face a challenge, which can be exacerbated by embarrassment and low level sign language fluency, in explaining these terms to a class of deaf pupils. The signs are explicit and can appear ‘rude’. Our challenge is to provide an environment where deaf children can learn openly and be at ease, empowered to ask questions and confident in the knowledge that they will get clear answers.

This is where qualified, deaf trainers come in. When Rubbena leads one of our SRE sessions the interaction between her and the deaf children is highly focused. The language is clear with definitions and discussion around meaning combined with sign language ensuring accessibility. The children are taught how to be safe and why not to take risks with their sexual well being. They are encouraged to ask her questions. No taboos. In the video above, Rubbena has told us more about her technique when teaching SRE.

We are interested to know how you overcome the challenge of translation when teaching? What is your experience?

If you want to comment in sign language, just upload it to a video sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo, send us the link and we’ll add it to the discussion thread.