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Logo: Dr Helen Robinshaw | Supporting Familie with Deaf Infants and their Professionals

About Experience


  • Degree in Psychology
  • Newborn Hearing Screening
  • PhD: Communication and Language Development in Deaf Infants
  • Paediatric Cochlear Implants
  • Professional Development in Pre-school Deaf Education
  • Teacher of the Deaf 
  • Specialist Pre-school Teacher of the Deaf
  • Manager: Family Centre for Pre-school Deaf Children
  • Consultant in Pre-school Deaf Education

Degree in Psychology

I first became interested in the potential benefits of early identification of hearing impairment whilst complementing a degree in psychology with some voluntary work with nursery aged children who were deaf.  As my studies and observations continued it became all too apparent that deaf children could have a much more straightforward time learning to communicate if they were given more help early on - and so could their parents!  After all, deaf babies with deaf parents had much more effective ways of communicating with each other than the majority of deaf infants born to normally hearing parents. 

The basis of much of my work is that whilst all children and families differ, the general processes of learning to communicate, listen and speak are well documented, and the more we know about each small step along that journey, the better we can support families with young children who are deaf.


Newborn Hearing Screening

During a “gap year” working as a Research Psychologist at the Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, I realised that our work on Brainstem Evoked Responses could be applied to the earlier identification of deafness.  I followed with enthusiasm the techniques being developed to screen newborn infants for hearing impairment and raised the funds to study the consequences of very early identification and amplification.  This resulted in being awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Cambridge University in 1993.  I have worked with families with infants following newborn hearing screening ever since.


PhD Communication and Language Development in Deaf Infants

Doctoral Research, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Cambridge University (1988-1991)

This was a longitudinal study of deaf infants aided prior to six months of age, their auditory, gestural and vocal, communicative and linguistic development in sign and speech. They were all matched with normally hearing cousins or peers.

This doctoral work examined both:

Not long into the study I became as interested, if not more so, in the parent’s contributions to the interaction; the factors that affected their behaviour and their successes. I was also working in a faculty with a superb research group studying the effects of postnatal depression. Since then, parents needs have been at the centre of my interests and research:


Paediatric Cochlear Implants

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University (1992-1994)

One of the children in my doctoral study became the first British prelinguistically deaf infant without additional handicaps to receive a multi-channel cochlear implant.  Unfortunately the speed of research often lags behind an individual child's progress, but this was a particularly helpful case study for the children that followed because we could compare extensive video recorded interaction before and after his implant. Again, I detailed the way in which this young implantee learnt to listen and to speak, monitoring his transition from sign language to speech and comparing different methods of education:

Paediatric & Adult Cochlear Implants

Cochlear UK (2007-2008)

I had the privilege of working as an Educational Adviser for Cochlear Europe on a part-time basis covering a maternity leave.  During that period I facilitated the development of projects in the following areas:

  • Auditory Verbal Studies - Principles into Practice: 'Listening for Life' Professional Education and Training run by Warren Estabrook, WE Listen International Inc,
  • Small Talk for Families - A resource for families with very young deaf infants and for the professionals who support them.
  • Professional Training in Using Psycho-socialTechniques when working with deaf teenagers and adults with cochlear implants (&/or DSP Heairng Aids).

Paediatric Cochlear Implants


I continue to work with families with babies or young children contemplating the potential benefits of paediatric cochlear implantation; going through the surgery and initial tuning, developing skills to prepare for and realise the auditory learning made possible through implantation and of course, liaising with the relative cochlear implant centres. I have worked with children across the primary age range, with and without additional challenges, who have benefitted from cochlear implants and who use them with personal FM systems.



Professional Development in Pre-school Deaf Education

Senior Research Fellow, Roehampton Institute, London (1994-1997 Part-time)

I have worked to extend professional development in Pre-school Deaf Education and Special Educational Needs at the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester, London and Brunel.

As a Senior Research Fellow in Pre-school Deaf Education at Roehampton Institute, London, my role was to:

  • Publish widely in this area
  • Develop professional training for teachers of children with Special Educational Needs
  • Offer workshops on video analysis and phonetic and gestural transcription
  • Supervise Masters and PhD students in this area.


Service Provision for Families with Deaf Infants

Senior Research Fellow, Brunel University (1997-2004 Part-time)

As a Senior Research Fellow at Brunel University I co-directed  a series of national and international literature reviews and research projects that focused on the development of services for families with young deaf children:


Teacher of the Deaf

I qualified as a Teacher of the Deaf in 1986. Since that time I have managed both primary and secondary unit and inclusive provision for hearing-impaired children across three local education authorities. I have taught children with normal and with impaired hearing from 0 – 16 years of age. I have also worked as a Specialist Advisory Teacher of the Deaf.



Speciaist Pre-school Teacher of the Deaf

As a specialist teacher of the deaf I have worked within a range of pioneering provision for pre-school deaf children and their families in the education, health and voluntary sectors.


Health Sector

My first post as a practitioner with pre-school deaf infants and their families was based in the Paediatric Audiology Department of The Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading where I worked with Professor John Bamford, Jacqueline Stokes and Roger Wills.  The well coordinated, interdisciplinary working that I then experienced, set my baseline for adequate standards of provision for parents from newborn hearing screening onwards.


Education and Charity Sectors

My baseline shifted from "adequate" to "most desirable" standards of support for parents with deaf children when I began working for The Elizabeth Foundation, family centre.  The Elizabeth Foundation for pre-school deaf children and their families was founded 25 years ago by parents of a deaf child, with other parents in mind.  The Elizabeth Foundation is a charity which offers most of it's services to parents free of charge or at a drastically reduced cost. The Elizabeth Foundation is an exemplary children’s centre, which hosts the local paediatric audiology and newborn hearing services on site, counselling, parent guidance and a host of pre-school education services that are available along with constructive links with other professionals working with the families who attend.

I have worked at the main centre in Hampshire and managed the The Elizabeth Foundation for Pre-school Deaf Children in Hertfordshire for two years.


Manager: Family Centre for Pre-school Deaf Children

I managed the The Elizabeth Foundation for Pre-school Deaf Children in Hertfordshire from 1994-1996. My duties included:

  • Management of a centre for pre-school deaf children and their families; a charity serving deaf babies, toddlers and pre-school children and their families from a wide geographical area of surrounding counties and London Boroughs.
  • Development of individual programmes of habilitation for pre-school deaf infants and their families, parent-infant guidance programmes, parent and toddler and pre-school nursery programmes and record keeping in line with international good practice and current government policies.
  • Establishment of a new multidisciplinary team, along with coordinated multi-agency working with many other teams from a wide geographical area.


Children’s Centres

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the development of Children’s Centres locally and am keen to support the development of services for deaf infants and their families within that context. My practical experience in various Children's Centres has given me a clear insight into both the benefits and the downfalls of such provision.


Consultant in Pre-school Deaf Education

Since 2000 I have been invited to work as a consultant in Pre-school Deaf Education to a selection of government agencies, national charities and local authorities. Consultancies with published guidance includes:


National Government: Department for Education   (DfE/S)

In 2003-4 I was a member of the team of principal consultants to the DfE Early Support Programme. I made a significant contribution to national guidance in this area:

National Charities

Local Education Authorities

Over the years I have given a range of presentations and training days to LEAs. I have experience of working with many London Boroughs and County LEAs in the preparation of Statements of Special Educational Needs, SEN Appeals and Tribunals.  I have also recently updated my skills as an Advisory Teacher working for a Local Education Authority.

I remain very happy to work with families with pre-school deaf children under the umbrella of their local education authority provision.


Children's Centres

I am passionate about the development of excellent service provision for pre-school deaf children and their families at local children’s centres.  Having contacted, studied, and compared centres of excellence for pre-school deaf children and their families internationally I welcome any opportunity to share my expertise and support new local centres for all pre-school children and their families.