5 Things to Teach Your Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child

by Paula Rosenthal

Hearing loss may make your child's journey of education and eventual employment bumpier than most, but it doesn't mean your child cannot reach the same goals as a hearing child Below, are some of the lessons I'm teaching my hearing impaired preschooler. These are the same lessons my parents taught me, for I was also a hearing impaired child.

1. Teach your child to educate. Give your child the words to explain her disability in age appropriate language. From the time I could talk, I told other children that I needed hearing aids to hear better just like people needed glasses to see better. Hearing aids no longer seemed so foreign and children found it easier to accept me as I was.

2. Teach your child to advocate. Your child should understand that it is her responsibility to ensure that her needs are met. Teach her how to ask a teacher for assistance. She should learn to tell the teacher as well as her peers that it is necessary to get her attention first and to face her when speaking. As your child grows up, you won't always be there. Help her establish early independence so that when she needs to speak for herself she will have the experience and confidence to do so.

3. Teach your child to focus. Children and adults alike pick up conversational clues with the use of visual cues such as facial expressions and body gestures. Teach your child to face the speaker and be attentive. Focusing is an important skill that is more easily learned at a young age and it will reap great rewards.

4. Teach your child the power of humor. Humor is a truly wonderful thing. Growing up, I experienced many embarrassing and difficult situations because of my disability. But I usually managed to find the humor in them. By laughing at myself I was able to turn uncomfortable situations around, thus earning respect from my peers.

5. Teach your child that no one is perfect. While many people don't have physical disabilities or problems that you can see, their lives are far from perfect. Realizing this, I've never felt sorry for myself and I've always been open about my disability. It may not be easy, but your child has everything to gain by telling people that she's deaf or hard of hearing when they first meet. People are much more understanding and patient when they know you have trouble hearing. By exhibiting this kind of self-confidence, it also sets the tone for how people will view and react to your child.
While being a hearing impaired child is not easy, it is important for parents to teach the child skills and coping strategies and instill self-confidence at a young age. By doing so, the roads of education, employment and relationships will be a lot smoother.

Paula Rosenthal, J. D. is a wife and mother of two young children. She, her husband and daughter are all hearing impaired. Her son is hearing. A law school graduate and entrepreneur, Paula recently founded HearingExchange.com, a site for exchanging ideas and information on hearing loss.


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