British actress Rachel Shenton is raising funds to make a film that highlights the barriers faced by deaf children born into hearing families. The short film called ‘The Silent Child’ is based on a true story of a deaf child living in a world of silence until her family meet a social worker who specialises in deafness.
Rachel, who has appeared in Hollyoaks, Waterloo Road and Holby City, is now starring in award winning US series Switched at Birth. Rachel was originally inspired to raise awareness of deaf issues by her father, who became profoundly deaf after undergoing chemotherapy.
“Communication is the beating heart of everything we do” Rachel Shenton
“I saw what a massive affect deafness had on my Dad and on the family” she says. “I consider my Dad was really lucky though as he had a voice so he could articulate what he wanted.”
Rachel subsequently learned British Sign Language and became a fully-qualified interpreter. Now she is using her experience to highlight the difficulties faced by deaf children of hearing families. 90% of deaf children are born into hearing families who have no knowledge of deafness and do not know sign language.
“Communication is the beating heart of everything we do” says Rachel. “We communicate what we want, how we feel, if we’re sad or if we’re happy. Not to be able to communicate in the first five years of your life has such an impact on the rest of your life. That’s what has given me the impetus to write this script.”
In Rachel’s film the audience sees how access to sign language transforms five year old Libby from an angry child into a vibrant and intelligent little girl who is hungry for knowledge. We see how her parents, lacking education about their daughter’s deafness, constantly search for ways to ‘normalise’ her. It’s not until they employ the help of a deaf-specialist social worker that it becomes apparent that it’s not Libby’s disability that is limiting her.
Chris Overton, the film’s director, sums up the rationale for telling Libby’s story:
“No child should be deprived of communication, especially with their Mum and Dad. For me this story has to be told.”
If you would like to help Rachel raise the funds to make ‘The Silent Child’ please visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-silent-child-short-film#/