My child is deaf – what can I do?
One in every 1000 children in the UK is born with a hearing problem. 9 out of 10 deaf children are part of hearing families. Most of these families have never met a deaf child before and do not know what to expect.
Parents will experience many feelings when they are told a child is deaf – there will be a fear of the unknown as to what to expect from him and what to hope for.
In time you may find out why your baby/child is deaf as this will be explored with your paediatrician.
Firstly there is a need to recognise the hearing loss and consider your next steps.
By understanding that your baby/child has the same innate potential as he would have had, should he have been hearing, will help you to understand your baby/child’s potential.
He has a hearing loss and this will need to be understood managed and supported.
Today we have the technology to support the range of hearing levels there are. There are hearing aids (HA); there are Cochlear implants (CI) and there are Bone anchored hearing aids (BAHA).
There are also additional support services and agencies such as a Teacher of the Deaf and Audiologist who will be able to support you with wearing and management of the ‘hearing aid technology’ and advise you regarding using your natural communication skills.
Most importantly is that you have the natural skills to interact, play and nurture your baby/child. Your baby/child is born to respond to your parenting and love and you have the natural skills to deliver it.
How can I communicate with him?
Remember that this is the same baby/child you had before you knew he was deaf. Go on talking naturally to him, singing nursery rhymes and playing with him as you did before. With well set up hearing aids/CI he will learn to enjoy his play just as other children do.
He will always understand, as you will be talking to him within daily routines of changing feeding and washing.
He will definitely understand that you love being with him and playing with him as you tickle and smile and talk in a positive way.
No new baby understands words at first, but they all love interactive play and the different tones of your voice. With the hearing aids/CI we have today your play and talk is also available to deaf babies/children. Make the most of opportunities of interaction and play and you will enjoy communicating and playing with him and seeing him develop.
Does he have to wear hearing aids?
He needs to be wearing his hearing aids/CI for him to hear. They need to be on routinely as he wakes until he sleeps throughout the day. Some babies will even sleep in the day with their hearing aids on, providing them with incidental listening opportunities. They will then wake to sound and can also be soothed to sleep.
Check the hearing aids/CI before they go on. Check they are clean and in good condition with batteries that are working. Always smile and talk showing you are pleased when they go on making it an enjoyable experience. He will then know you care.
Almost all children, however deaf, will benefit from modern hearing aids. They cannot give him normal hearing but with them he does not have to live in a world of silence. You can help your child by making sure he wears his hearing aids all the time. Make sure you are shown how they work and how you should check them at home every day.
Will he be able to talk?
With the hearing aids/Cochlear implants we have today he will have access to speech and language.
Mostly in the beginning he is directly involved and interacting with an adult who is using language that is about him and what is happening to him at the time. With the hearing aids and cochlear implants (hearing aid technology) we have today there is every expectation that your child will talk.
Children learn to talk because people listen to them and talk and play with them and because what is said is meaningful.
His home language is not English – What should we do?
Always use what comes naturally and spontaneously, you will then know what to say without thinking. He will then have access to a rich meaningful language and vocabulary.
Everyone around him will be talking in his home language and he will be totally immersed in it. There will be lots of opportunities for incidental hearing. He will hear those ‘cutie’ words we all use to babies along with the natural patterns and tones of speech, rhyme and song. When he starts nursery and school he will get lots of English and because he knows how language works he will do well.
What will other people think?
People around and about will be curious when they see your baby and child with hearing aids. It is likely that they have never seen or met a deaf child. By talking naturally to your child, you give other people the confidence to talk to him too and your behaviour will show them that he is just an ordinary child who needs help to hear.
How will a deaf child affect our family?
All babies and children need a lot of yoiur time and attention. It is likely that your deaf child particularly in the early years does receive more attention that a hearing baby or child would, as indicated by the following:-
– He will need support with his hearing aids/cochlear implants
– He will get more attention as he visits clinics or has the Teacher of the Deaf
making home visits to see him.
– You will realise how much he benefits from the close one to one chat and play
as over a distance he may well not hear what is said or even know it is said to
-You also will want to respond to anything he has heard or whatever he is wanting
to tell you, to ensure he is accessing.
Although your deaf child will need a lot of your time and attention, remember he is only one member of the family. You should expect him to follow the same rules and routines for behaviour as for all children. He will understand not only what he has done is wrong, but also the consequences as he will have observed other children. He will also learn to want to please and share. It is much better to learn this as a young child than as an older one.
You may be tempted to spoil him and to make allowances but this will not help him as he grows up.
Will he go onto further education? Will he get a job?
Consider going on a Summer School as it will help you to understand lots more, meet other families, professionals and young deaf people who you will be able to talk to.
Where can we get help?
There are deaf young people and adults who have achieved what they would if they were hearing. They are in all walks of life. It will depend upon his talents and his luck – just like everyone else. Get in touch with DELTA and we can introduce some of them to you.
- Listen to him
- Spend time playing and talking with him
- Don’t forget daily routines that will help him to hear and experience repetitive talk, games, songs and rhymes.
- Make sure you check his hearing aids/Cochlear implants every day and that you know where to go for help
- Respond to him with talk and smiles
- Enjoy your child as he learns and grows
- Have the same expectations as you would for a hearing child
- Get in touch with DELTA
- Shout or slow your speech down or make exaggerated lip movements
- Treat him as anything other than your child
- Be afraid to ask for help and advice