Social isolation leads to poor outcomes
Left out in the playground...
The seed for Talk Town was sown over 10 years ago... while on playground duty at the primary school next to my university. A nine year old Deaf boy - who had good speech skills - was cut off from the games and conversations of his peers. After some time wandering around, he joined in a chasing game with much younger children. It occurred to me that he couldn't overhear the social subtleties of how playground friendships are formed, so he hadn't learned these skills. Why didn't someone teach him? I tried to suggest a few 'icebreaker' phrases... and then the bell rang. There was never enough time to get through all the academic material and speech therapy drills, let alone 'extra' stuff...
Over the following years I saw how this situation played out over and over again. Hearing technology has improved exponentially over this time - but it's not perfect. Deaf kids are still not fully socially immersed in their local mainstream classrooms. And this can lead to a range of negative outcomes. Talk Town aims to improve the school experience of deaf kids, and equip them with skills that will help them reach their full potential throughout their lifetimes.
In recent years, there is a growing awareness amoungst researchers and professionals that deaf kids can lack key social language skills - and this is not fully resolved by improved access to speech and spoken language. Teacher of the Deaf and Audiologist, Professor Christine Yoshinaga-Itano published an important study highlighting this issue.
However, there is also a strong evidence base of tools and strategies that people with hearing loss can utilise to improve their communication experiences. The aims of the Talk Town game are to empower deaf kids with these strategies, along with important self-advocacy skills. In turn, we aim to improve outcomes for deaf kids around the globe.