Study calls for more research into support interventions for parents of deaf infants

There is a need for more research into support interventions for parents of deaf infants, especially those which focus on supporting healthy social and emotional development, a leading research centre has found.

The Child Oriented Mental Health Intervention Centre (COMIC) has published findings that show a need for more high-quality research focusing on interventions to support parents of deaf infants.

Professor Barry Wright, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is the founder of the COMIC network. He said: “Over 90% of the 50,000 deaf children in the UK have hearing parents. Often, they were not expecting to have a deaf child and therefore may want more specialist support.

“There’s no reason that deaf children should achieve any less than hearing children, but research often shows that socially and in the classroom, many of them face poorer outcomes. Early detection and early support can be helpful at providing positive outcomes.

“After early detection by the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, families in the UK receive support from qualified Teachers of the Deaf. However, there are challenges due to a lack of clarity around what specific parenting support interventions are most helpful. This makes it difficult for services to decide where to focus limited resources and can mean provisions varies across the country.

“Our study found no research on interventions that focused specifically on parent support to understand or nurture child social and emotional development, despite this being a well-established area of poor outcome for deaf children. Overall, there were few recent, UK-based studies and research generally was not of high quality.

“We’re urgently calling for more research to be done to examine what support interventions work best for parents of deaf infants.”

Prof Wright’s COMIC team completed a systematic scoping review of the evidence for support interventions for parents of deaf infants, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit Programme. From 5,577 identified records, 54 met final inclusion criteria.

The results identified a range of parenting support interventions, including both group and individual sessions in various settings, including online. These interventions were led by a range of professionals and targeted various outcomes. Internationally only five randomised controlled trials were identified. Other identified study designs included non-randomised comparison group designs, pre / post studies and other designs such as longitudinal studies, qualitative analyses and case studies. Assessment tools found most of the included studies had some concerns over risk of bias. Most commonly, the studies focused on the language and communication of the child, and regardless of language modality, there was a lack of those which focused on social and emotional development.


Child Oriented Mental Health Intervention Centre

COMIC stands for Child Oriented Mental Health Intervention Centre (the “h” is silent”).

At COMIC we are passionate about working with children and young people to empower and support their wellbeing.

We place children, young people and their families at the centre of everything we do in order to develop interventions that are accessible, child-friendly and child-focused.

The COMIC virtual network of researchers is led by two researchers, Dr Clare Fenton, Honorary Senior Lecturer at Hull York Medical School and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Professor Lina Gega, Chair in Child Mental Health at the Hull York Medical School and at the University of York.

They bring strong clinical and academic leadership to the COMIC network of researchers and support the planning of the work around a central agenda of improving the mental health of children and young people. We are fortunate to work with a variety of professionals, organisations and families to help bring this vision to life. Feel free to check out our research pages to find out more about the research we are currently working on.

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