Communication Considerations for Parents of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children

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Deafness or hearing impairment affects not only a child who is deaf or has a hearing loss, but also the child's family, friends, and teachers. For hundreds of years, people have debated the best ways to develop communication skills and provide education for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Here are a few points upon which scientific and health professionals, educators, and experienced parents commonly agree:

Why should my newborn's hearing be screened?

The earlier that deafness or hearing loss is identified, the better the chances a child will acquire language, whether spoken or signed. A hearing screening can be an important indicator of deafness or hearing loss in a child. For this reason, all infants should be screened while still in the hospital or within the first month of life. But children who do not pass their screening need to go for a follow-up examination. The follow-up examination includes precise audiological testing that confirms the extent and type of hearing loss. It also allows parents, health professionals, and teachers to determine the best intervention strategy for the child. The term intervention refers to the different steps that families can take to overcome communication barriers caused by a hearing loss. When intervention is introduced early, the child can take advantage of the unique window of opportunity during the first few years of life when a person acquires language, whether spoken or signed.

Each child is unique

Each child is unique. It is important to understand the full nature and extent of a child's hearing loss or deafness. It is also important to understand how each family member and caregiver will communicate with the child. Get to know the services that are provided in your community for children in preschool and elementary school.

Should I optimize any residual hearing?

Optimizing residual hearing may be advantageous. Children may benefit from hearing aids or cochlear implants. This is a decision that you should discuss with your child's healthcare providers and other professionals who work with deaf children and language development.

Explore your options; work with professionals

Exploring the options and, if possible, working with professionals in teams can be beneficial. Your child may visit a pediatrician, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), an audiologist (hearing specialist), and a speech-language pathologist (specialist in speech and language disorders). Some otolaryngologists and audiologists are specially trained to work with infants and children. They are referred to as pediatric otolaryngologists and pediatric audiologists. Ask each professional to inform other professionals who work with your child about your child's visits. Coordinated care can be a big help to you and your child. Many parents find it useful to include educational and social service professionals on the team.

Interact with your child often

Parents should interact often with a deaf or hard-of-hearing infant. All of the caregivers in your child's life should interact with him or her as much as possible. You can do this by holding, facing, smiling at, and responding to your infant from the very beginning. Children need love, encouragement, and care from their families and caregivers.

Work with your child's teachers

Teachers who are experienced in working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children can help parents understand how to improve long-term outcomes for a child. Talk to your child's teachers. Get to know the educational system your child will be entering and the services it provides for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Organizations and federal agencies can provide helpful information to families of deaf or hard-of-hearing children. Consult the resources below, and see what information they can provide. Several offer differing perspectives on the best way to develop the skills and talents of your deaf or hard-of-hearing child. Many of these Web sites are updated frequently, so you may want to bookmark them on your Web browser.

Additional resources

Alexander Graham Bell Association for
the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (A.G. Bell)
3417 Volta Place, NW.
Washington, DC 20007-2778
Voice: (202) 337-5220
TTY: (202) 337-5221
Toll-free: (800) HEAR-KID (432-7543)
Fax: (202) 337-8314
Publications: Hearing Loss Information Brochures

American Academy of Audiology (AAA)
11730 Plaza America Drive, Suite 300
Reston, VA 20190
Voice/TTY: (703) 790-8466
Toll-free: (800) 222-2336
Fax: (703) 790-8631
Publications: Newborn Hearing Screening

American Academy of Otolaryngology-
Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS)
One Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3357
Voice: (703) 836-4444
TTY: (703) 519-1585
Fax: (703) 683-5100
Publications: Hearing Health Center

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
141 Northwest Point Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098
Voice: (847) 434-4000
Fax: (847) 434-8000
Internet: Publications: Guide to Your Child's Symptoms: Hearing Loss

American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC)
P.O. Box 3355
Gettysburg, PA 17325
Voice/TTY: (717) 334-7922
Toll-free: (800) 942-ASDC (2732)
Fax: (717) 334-7922

American Speech-Language-Hearing
Association (ASHA)
10801 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
Voice: (301) 897-5700
TTY: (301) 897-0157
Toll-free: (800) 638-8255
Fax: (301) 571-0457
Publications: Hearing and Balance

Beginnings for Parents of Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Inc. (Beginnings)
Raleigh Office
P.O. Box 17646
Raleigh, NC 27619
Voice/TTY: (919) 850-2746
Toll-free Voice/TTY: (800) 541-4327
Fax: (919) 850-2804

Charlotte Office
7508 E. Independence Blvd., Suite 106
Charlotte, NC 28227
Voice/TTY: (704) 566-0145
Toll-free Voice/TTY: (800) 556-2796
Fax: (704) 566-0653
Toll-free Voice/TTY: (800) 541-HEAR (4327)

Boys Town National Research Hospital
555 N. 30th Street
Omaha, NE 68131
Voice/TTY: (402) 498-6543
Toll-free: (800) 282-6657
Fax: (402) 498-6755
Publications: My Baby's Hearing (developed with support from the NIDCD)
Boys Town Pediatrics

Clearinghouse on Disability Information
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
Communication and Media Support Services (CMSS)
United States Department of Education
330 C Street, SW., Room 3132
Washington, DC 20202-2524
Voice: (202) 205-8241
Fax: (202) 205-9252

Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD)
P.O. Box 1778
St. Augustine, FL 32085-1778
Voice: (904) 810-5200
Fax: (904) 810-5525

Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf (CAID)
P.O. Box 377
Bedford, TX 76095-0377
Voice/TTY: (817) 354-8414

Council on Education of the Deaf (CED)
207 FH, 800 Florida Avenue, NE.
Gallaudet University
Washington, DC 20002
Voice/TTY: (202) 651-5525
Fax: (202) 651-5749

Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Voice: (770) 488-7150

ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
1110 North Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22201-5704
Voice: (703) 264-9472
Toll-free/TTY: (800) 328-0272
Fax: (703) 620-2521
Publications: Deafness/Hearing Impairments

Harvard Medical School Center for Hereditary Deafness
Harvard-Partners Genome Center
65 Landsdowne Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
Voice: (617) 768-8291
Fax: (617) 768-8510
Publications: Understanding the Genetics of Deafness *

Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue, NE.
Washington, DC 20002-3695
Voice: (202) 651-5051
TTY: (202) 651-5052
Fax: (202) 651-5054

National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
814 Thayer Avenue, Suite 250
Silver Spring, MD 20910-4500
Voice: (301) 587-1788
TTY: (301) 587-1789
Fax: (301) 587-1791
Publications: Parents, Family, and Friends

National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)
1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 320
Alexandria, VA 22314
Voice: (703) 519-3800
TTY: (703) 519-7008
Fax: (703) 519-3808

National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing (NBASLH)
P.O. Box 959
Athens, OH 45701
Voice: (740) 594-4989
Fax: (740) 594-6229

National Cued Speech Association (NCSA)
23970 Hermitage Road
Shaker Heights, OH 44122
Toll-free Voice/TTY: (800) 459-3529
Fax: Call for number

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
400 Maryland Avenue, SW.
Washington, DC 20202-2572
Voice: (202) 205-8134
TTY: (202) 205-4475

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., SW.
Washington, DC 20202
Voice: (202) 205-5507
Publications: Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers
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