Sensory Impairment

Two young women drinking coffee, communicating in sign language.

The term sensory impairment means a diagnosis of:

  • Vision impairment
  • Deafness or hearing loss
  • Multi sensory impairment (which means having a diagnosed vision and deafness or hearing loss with at least a mild loss in each sense.  This is also called Dual Sensory Loss or deafblindness).

Sensory Support for children and young people

Any child or young person aged 0-25, who has a medically diagnosed hearing loss (who uses/will use audiological equipment) and/or vision impairment (which cannot be corrected by glasses) can be referred to us.

These referrals usually come directly from our colleagues in Health but if the referral is being made by someone else we can contact Health (with the family’s permission) on their behalf to make sure that we are all working together and have the most up to date medical advice.

How we can help

Our aim is to support you, your child, and staff in developing the knowledge and understanding of the hearing loss and/or vision impairment with the long-term view of preparing your child for adulthood.

We do this by:

  • conducting specialist assessments and providing an interpretation of results
  • providing advice and guidance to our families, children, young people, educational settings, and other professionals
  • teach directly in groups or one-to-one
  • working in partnership with parents/carers and other professionals to ensure holistic support for our learners and their wider family
  • carrying out continuing professional development for school staff and training advice for parents
  • supporting and maintaining specialist equipment
  • supporting and using whichever communication methods will best meet the needs of the child. This can include British Sign Language, Sign Supported English, Visual Phonics and Communicate in Print.
  • providing Braille training where required.
Our team

We are a large, energetic, and friendly team with many different roles. These roles include:

  • Deaf Specialist Higher Level Teaching Assistants
  • Deaf Specialist/Vision Impaired Teaching Assistants
  • Habilitation Specialist
  • Qualified Teachers of the Deaf and Vision Impaired
  • Touch Typing Tutor
Specialist equipment

We support and monitor a child/young person’s optimum use of all hearing technology provided by audiology clinics. When appropriate, we provide auxiliary equipment such as personal wireless systems, deliver training in their use and maintain them. We also advise on, train, and support the use of technology to support vision Impaired children/young people.

Provision and upkeep of canes

We will provide the first cane for a child or young person when the need has been identified through an assessment by the Habilitation Specialist. Following this, parents will be required to replace and maintain the cane.


Environmental assessments

We are happy to offer environmental assessments to schools and settings for a child/young person with profound, severe, or moderate vision impairment (0.6 logMAR or worse) or hearing loss.

Starting school

When your child/young person starts school, our team can offer you advice and information to help you make your choice. We work closely with schools to advise on how they can best work with your child/young person and ensure that they are supported to achieve their potential. Children/young people are supported at all times of transition to help them prepare for the next stage of their education.

We will train school staff to ensure that they develop the skills required to meet your child/young person’s needs and support their inclusion in school.

Deaf Support Centres

The Sensory Support Team 0-25yrs staffs and runs 2 enhanced resource bases for high needs D/deaf children and young people known as Deaf Support Centres (DSCs). One DSC is based at Mayfield Primary School and the other at Cottenham Village College for secondary-aged children/young people. The DSC children/young people remain on school role and are fully included in school life benefiting from all the advantages of a mainstream school coupled with in-depth specialist support.

Most D/deaf children are supported in their local school with appropriate adaptations and support from a peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf, but some require more specialist support. The DSC is led by a Qualified Teacher of the Deaf and consists of a team of support staff. Each DSC child/young person has a bespoke timetable to allow for interventions and specialist teaching to meet their D/deaf needs.

This includes a focus on independence, preparation for adulthood, and their social and emotional wellbeing, however, it is expected that the majority of their time will be spent in mainstream lessons alongside their hearing peers. The policy and ethos of inclusion and access reflect the aims and philosophy of the school and Sensory Support Team 0-25yrs.

Entry Guidelines

The statements below are used as a guide to help us determine if the Deaf Support Centre setting is best for children/young people with the highest need:

  • children/young people who have a permanent severe or profound bilateral hearing loss
  • an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in which deafness is identified as the primary need
  • severe receptive language delay (typically in the first percentile) and associated delayed expressive language development.
  • The need for British Sign Language/Sign Supported English to support access to education

Exit Guidelines

For pupils in Year 4 or below only

Children/young people whose progress indicates they no longer require this level of specialist support may be able to be included successfully in their local mainstream school with ongoing involvement from the Sensory Support Team.

This would be indicated when:

  • Teacher assessments evidence pupil progress and attainment within the average range
  • Language assessments demonstrate that a child/young person’s language scores are within or above the average range


If you feel that your child/young person may require the in-depth support of one of our DSCs please talk to your current QToD or contact . If a referral is decided upon, this will be documented at an EHCP Review and a request will be made via the Student Assessment Team (SAT).

Frequently asked questions

How is the support different from an 'ordinary' mainstream setting?

The Deaf Support Group is based within the school and the Sensory Support Team staff work alongside the mainstream staff to support children. Children access the DSC as needed as part of their bespoke enhanced provision.

Will my child be offered British Sign Language? 

British Sign Language teaching of basic signs and BSL structure is accessed through individual provision discussions for all children in the County, where this is considered to benefit the child and their family. If a child/young person required a full BSL signing environment it is possible that we would suggest a signing school for the Deaf to enable access to a Deaf signing peer group.

The DSC staff are able to support all communication modes for children and this is considered on an individual basis.

How much specialist support (specialist teaching assistant) time will my child have? 

The DSC children/young people have access to support from a sTA. Not all support needs to be direct lesson support as sTAs will also support a child through the preparation of learning materials and contributing to assessments of their learning.

How do you keep parents informed about their child's day and progress?

Parents of children/young people who are supported by the DSC like to have more information about their child’s day, to support conversations about learning at home.

For younger children, we provide daily information to parents to support their language acquisition at home. Secondary age young people as part of their independence may require less than daily information being sent to parents/carers. For all children/young people, progression conversations happen as part of learning support reviews at least termly. Where there are questions in the interim, the QToD is available to discuss these.

I live quite far from Mayfield/Cottenham Village College, how will I get my child to school?

Children/young people supported by the DSC may live outside of the catchment area for the school and therefore qualify for School Transport. School Transport must be applied for.

Find out more about Transport to school.

I want my child to continue to learn to talk; do you teach using speech or sign?

The DSCs are based at mainstream schools where spoken English is the most common language used and the language used by the majority of their peers and by the classroom teacher. We support all communication modes when working with children to develop their skills.

Who is in charge of my child's learning, the class-teacher or the QTOD?

As with all settings, the curriculum is part of a whole-school plan for children’s learning. There may be aspects of the curriculum that are best focused on within DSC time and this is led by the QToD in discussion with you, the child/young person, and school.

Contact us

Amundsen House
Stocks Bridge Way
St Ives
PE27 5JL

Telephone: 01480 373434

Related Pages

  1. Special Educational Needs Support
  2. Transport to school
  3. Autism, Social Communication, Speech, Language and Communication
  4. Social, Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health (SEMH)


  1. 2021 - September Safeguarding Child Protection Policy SST 0-25
  2. Cleaning hearing devices - supporting Health and Safety
  3. RNIB Moving On Guide: Preparing young people with vision impairment for post‑16 transitions

Related Services

  1. Cambridge Deaf Association
  2. Cambridgeshire Deaf Association
  3. Huntingdonshire Society for the Blind

External Links

  1. National Deaf Children's Society
  2. Hear Together
  3. Cambridgeshire Deaf Association
  4. RNIB
  5. Sense
  6. Cambridgeshire County Council information for adults about support for sight and hearing loss and disabilities


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