How to Support a Hearing Impaired Child

Three Parts:Identifying, Accepting, and Acting upon Hearing ImpairmentSocializing a Hearing Impaired ChildEducating a Hearing Impaired Child

Teaching or providing care for a hearing impaired child can be a daunting task, no matter the child’s age or the nature or extent of the impairment. However, it is important to remember that hearing impaired children are every bit as capable of learning and succeeding in all aspects of life. Like all other kids, what they need is an individualized, supportive approach that adapts to meet their particular abilities and limitations. Supporting a hearing impaired child requires some special knowledge and techniques, but it also provides special rewards as you watch the child grow and develop.

Part 1
Identifying, Accepting, and Acting upon Hearing Impairment

  1. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 1
    Identify hearing impairment as soon as possible. The earlier in the process that hearing impairment is identified in a child, the sooner proactive measures can be taken to ensure proper learning and social development take place. With infants and small children in particular, a “habilitative” instead of “rehabilitative” approach can then be taken — supporting and teaching them in manners consistent with their hearing limitations right from the start.[1]
    • Ensure that children receive regular medical checkups from birth; hearing impairments may be detected by medical professionals before they are suspected by families.
    • Watch for signs of possible hearing impairment in children, which may include a lack of responsiveness, especially when facing away; trouble following directions; noticeable hearing difficulties when there is background noise; and a range of other possible behaviors. If concerned, talk to an audiologist or physician.
  2. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 2
    Accept the challenges and rewards of supporting a hearing impaired child. Parents in particular can have difficulty accepting or dealing with a hearing impairment diagnosis. Life with a hearing impaired child will certainly be different, but always remember that he or she is a child first and foremost. No level of hearing impairment need limit or prevent a child from developing into a happy, healthy, smart, sociable, complete person.[2]
    • The sooner you accept the reality with honesty and an open mind, the sooner you can begin developing the methods of support that are best suited to each unique child with hearing impairment.
    • Especially when the hearing impairment develops in children beyond the toddler stage, they may need help accepting and dealing with the changes. Seek out advice and help from professionals as well as others facing similar circumstances.
  3. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 3
    Treat every child as a unique individual. Every parent of multiple children without hearing impairments realizes that there is no “one size fits all” approach to raising them, and the same is true with kids with hearing impairments. If you are raising or working with multiple hearing-impaired children, you will quickly discover that each one requires an individualized approach in order to achieve his or her full potential.[3]
    • Use the recommendations for dealing with hearing-impaired children found in this article and elsewhere (such as professional advisors and people in the “same boat”) as suggestions more than commands. Pay attention to each child, observe and learn what works and does not based upon his or her distinctive circumstances and personality.
  4. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 4
    Consider and accept treatment options and choices. Some people with hearing impairments (or their parents or caregivers) see cochlear implants and other hearing-improvement options as life-benefitting gifts, while others worry that they stigmatize those with hearing impairments as somehow lesser or incomplete without such “improvement.” Every hearing impaired child and his or her family has the right to make informed decisions about what is right for them, and these decisions should be respected and supported.[4]
    • Research the options available based on the specifics of the child’s hearing impairment. Talk to experts and those with similar experiences. Give the child a strong voice in the process, and utilize a “try-and-see” approach when appropriate. Most importantly, support whatever choice is made as what is best for the particular child.

Part 2
Socializing a Hearing Impaired Child

  1. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 5
    Treat the child like a child. Parents can easily be overprotective of any child, but the tendency can increase even further when the child has a hearing impairment. You may want to shield the child from difficulties and embarrassments, but you will do a disservice to his or her social development in the process. By and large, your mantra should be to “expect more and protect less,” within the reasonable bounds of the child’s circumstances.[5]
    • Hold a hearing impaired child to the same expectations for social behavior as other children, once again with some adaptations as needed to suit his or her condition. Hearing impaired children need to be able to “play nice,” follow the rules, and be held accountable for their actions. Treat them as kids with some special circumstances, not as kids who need special treatment (or constant, hovering supervision).
    • At home or in the classroom, hearing impaired children should have assigned chores or tasks like all the other kids, and the same expectations (and rewards) for completing them.
  2. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 6
    Immerse the child in spoken and sign language. Ignore the fears you may hear among some people that instructing a hearing impaired child in sign language early on will interfere with the development of spoken language comprehension and usage. In reality, learning spoken and sign language together can be mutually supportive, just like learning two spoken languages at the same time. And, like spoken languages, the earlier in life you start, the easier sign language is to “pick up.”[6]
    • American Sign Language (ASN) is the third most commonly used language in the United States. Classes are widely available, and are worth the time for anyone who interacts with hearing impaired children — or may wish to at some point.
    • Developing spoken language skills in hearing impaired children requires some particular skills, of course, but is important in regards to social development. Small points of emphasis like making eye contact, focusing on facial expressions and hand gestures, and taking turns while practicing can be helpful. Turn to professional resources for individualized assistance.
  3. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 7
    Seek out advice and support. Always remember that you are never alone in your efforts to nurture the growth of a child with a hearing impairment. From government programs to private agencies to local support groups, there are people out there who can and will help you and the child grow and succeed.[7]
    • In the U.S., for example, the federal IDEA Act requires that free early-intervention programs be made available to all hearing impaired children from ages 0-3 and throughout their school-age years (3-21).[8]
    • Organizations such as the American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC) can offer assistance in finding a “Deaf Mentor,” an adult who helps the child and family adapt and learn together.[9]
  4. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 8
    Assess hearing impaired children’s social skills, before kindergarten when applicable. Hearing impaired children are often behind in their social skills development when they start school, which can put them “behind the curve” and make make academic and social progress more difficult as they move along. Efforts you make to identify and address the development of social skills will continue to pay dividends throughout childhood and beyond.[10]
    • The resources you can use to determine a hearing impaired child’s social skills include: social communications skills checklists; social skills improvement guides; and the LIFE handout (Listening Inventory for Education), a diagnostic tool to determine potential learning difficulties in the school environment.

Part 3
Educating a Hearing Impaired Child

  1. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 9
    Develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP is a collaborative process involving the hearing impaired child’s family and educators and school administrators. As the name indicates, it establishes a set of policies, plans, and adaptations that will enable the hearing impaired child to maximize his or her educational potential.[11]
    • Hearing impaired children and their families have the right to expect reasonable accommodations in a traditional educational setting. The IEP will help to establish these policies in concrete terms.
    • If the child will attend a school for hearing impaired children, an IEP will still be a useful to for ensuring that he or she receives the best personalized educational experience.
  2. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 10
    Interact, don’t just instruct. Teaching a hearing impaired child may require more direct, face-to-face communication, especially when discussing abstract concepts (time or feelings, for instance). However, make sure the process is a two-way street. Encourage the child to respond and interact with you and other students in order to develop his or her communication skills.[12]
    • It can be tempting to serve as the deaf child’s “interpreter” for the other members of the class, but encourage interaction among the students as well. Find the combination of signing, gesturing, lip reading, writing, and speaking that facilitates communication among the hearing impaired child(ren) and the other students.
  3. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 11
    Take practical steps in the classroom. Legal requirements, human compassion, and plain old common sense dictate that some “helpful adaptations” will need to be made in order for a hearing impaired child to have the same chance for success as students in the class without hearing impairments. Use the IEP and discussions with the student and parents to determine the particular adaptations that will support the child’s learning needs while minimizing distractions or difficulties for the other students.[13]
    • Such “useful adaptations” may include, among others: keeping the door and windows closed to reduce outside noise; always teaching from the front of the room, while facing the class; summarizing / restating the questions, answers, and comments made by other students; writing all assignments, etc. on the board; sticking to established routines, which make it easier for a child to “catch up” or predict what is going on if he or she misses something; and establishing a hand signal between student and teacher to indicate when something is missed or not understood.
  4. Image titled Support a Hearing Impaired Child Step 12
    Know the child's rights. As mentioned elsewhere in this article, federal law in the U.S. protects the rights of hearing impaired students to receive reasonable accommodations and to have access to intervention and support programs to facilitate academic success. As a parent or concerned adult, identify, recognize, and assert the child’s educational rights.[14]
    • As a teacher, make yourself aware of your responsibilities and expectations as well. Draw from the IEP and relevant legal requirements.

Article Info

Categories: Help | Volunteer and Community Service