The Silent Child illuminates the importance of sign language to allow deaf children to embrace the same opportunities afforded to those around them. 

From writer and actress Rachel Shenton, The Silent Child tells the short story of a child born with deafness into a family that doesn’t quite understand how to cope with their daughter. Libby (Maisie Sly) is largely unresponsive to her mother’s hopes to get her talking, and finds a friend in the social worker Sue (Rachel Fielding) brings in to try to help her.

9 out of ten deaf children are born to hearing parents, and director Chris Overton expertly brings to life the struggle those parents can often face with bringing up deaf children. Coming up to school age, Sue desperately attempts to sideline sign language, considering it a detriment to Libby’s education and social development. However Joanne (Rachel Shenton) forms a bond with the girl after teaching her the gift of signing.

The Silent Child is a touching story about the difficulties of having a deaf child. With stunning aerial shots of the English countryside, and an arresting short sequence in which we see through Libby’s eyes into a world with no sound, Shenton’s story deserves the critical acclaim it has so far achieved, and illuminates the everyday ability that most of us take for granted, that of communication.

Shenton’s film is stark reminder that over 78 per cent of deaf children attend school with no specialist support in place for them. While many consider deafness to be a learning difficulty, the audience are reminded that deaf children can look forward to the same life experiences and opportunities of children with perfect hearing. However, without the support of schools, social workers and education, the challenge is far steeper. The film comes to a close with an appeal for sign language to be adopted in every school in order to give deaf children the start in life they deserve.

The Silent Child has been shortlisted for an Academy Award and will be screening as part of the London Short Film Festival at BFI Southbank on 16th January. Tickets here. 

★★★★☆