As a School Psychologist and the founder and owner of SIGNING FAMILIES™, I often receive queries from parents who are searching for any kind of assistance to help their deaf child. For most parents, having a deaf child is an unexpected bit of news and quite a shock which leads to many questions such as- “Will my child live a ‘normal’ life- go to college, learn to drive, talk to me” and so forth. While I don’t have a zillion answers, I do have a lot of information that others have shared with me and now I happily will share with you.
First, know that 9 of every 10 deaf children born in the United States are born to hearing parents. The reasons for deafness vary with some being genetic. Most parents don’t know anything about deafness, the amazing deaf culture or American Sign Language (ASL). However, some of the misconceptions one may have had in the past are changing (thankfully) due to great public figures such as Marlee Matlin, Deanne Bray and TV shows such as GLEE.
Deafness comes in degrees. Some children can have a hearing loss and benefit from hearing aids and perhaps speech therapy. Others will receive zero benefit from amplification. Just like no two people wearing glasses are the same, neither are those with hearing loss. I. King Jordan, the past president of Gallaudet University, has been quoted as saying, “Deaf people can do anything- except hear”. I ditto that sentiment. You need only to walk the campus of Gallaudet University or see the Who’s Who within the deaf community to know that success is not based on whether you can hear or not.
Now for the What Should We Do?
To start if you have discovered your child is deaf or hard of hearing you may wish to do the following:
1- Contact your public school district Early Intervention Office. The United States has programs that are FREE and available to any child from birth through the age of 21 who qualifies as needing special education, this may include speech therapy for a child with a significant hearing loss and early intervention specialists helping parents with their children’s learning. Here is a link to help you find your more about the laws which help children with exceptional needs: http://idea.ed.gov/ and here http://www.nectac.org/partc/partc.asp
2- Talk with your pediatrician about referrals to medical teams which specialize with deaf children. Your pediatrician most likely has not received specific training in audiology and other matters to help your deaf child. This is just the way it is with medical training.
3. Talk with other parents who have deaf children. There are options from different educational programs, to hearing aids to the cochlear implant. This is your child, be a well informed “consumer”.
4- Learn American Sign Language (ASL). Now I know most of you are saying that you were expecting this suggestion given the nature of my business. However, the reality is that ASL is the fourth most common language in the U.S. And a deaf child with or without a cochlear implant, in my opinion, can still benefit from learning ASL. Plus, sign language for young children , hearing or deaf, has been proven to promote overall language skills, reduce frustration and negative behaviors. Learning ASL is a win-win, for deaf and hearing populations. Your child has nothing to lose by being bilingual and bicultural. To learn more about ASL or see many practice sites visit here: ASL
5- Check out these wonderful groups I have listed below who only want to help your deaf or hard of hearing (HOH) child and your family as a whole.
6- There has been a plethora of material written and filmed about the deaf community, mainstreaming of deaf children into hearing schools and the cochlear implant. Two seminole films are THROUGH DEAF EYES and SOUND and FURY (make sure you watch the first and second films for SOUND and FURY to get the whole story). Both are available on PBS.org, NETFLIX and online for purchase. Both were required viewing for my ASL college level courses. Students with preconceived notions about deafness were “blown away” by both films, especially THROUGH DEAF EYES.
If you have any more questions please feel free to post here or go to SIGNING FAMILIES on FACEBOOK. Let us ALL learn from each other.
There is no way possible that I could list ALL the wonderful websites dedicated to helping Deaf/ HOH children and families. Please feel free to add your favorites in the comment section. PLEASE visit SIGNING FAMILIES LINKS for a more thorough list, too.
To help with literacy of deaf children and support for families:
Gallaudet Clerc Center: http://clerccenter.gallaudet.edu/
These organizations or businesses help children’s literacy in general, many with a bilingual- bicultural element
Social -Emotional Development help can be found here:
EARLY CHILDHOOD BLOGS were listed in bulk here too by the Guide to Online Schools: http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/tips-and-tools/early-childhood-blogs
Thanks for reading