As the mom of a toddler or preschooler, it can be heartbreaking to a mom to learn what she’s long suspected — that her adorable, perfect toddler has a hearing impairment, but it is a reality. Approximately two percent of all babies born in the US are born with a hearing impairment.
A hearing impairment in newborns can negatively impact speech and language development, according to the article, “Help for Parents of Children With Hearing Loss” as cited on WebMD. As the mom of a toddler or preschooler, you want to minimize the impact a hearing impairment will have on your child’s development. Strategies to help your hearing-impaired child include diagnosis, communication choices and education.
Keeping in Touch
Your child may feel isolated because of her inability to hear and participate in daily events that are geared to the hearing world, according to WebMD. Educating yourself about various assistive technology tools and choosing those that work well with your particular child’s needs, help remove that sense of isolation. Depending on the cause and extent of your child’s hearing loss, surgically implanted tubes, hearing aids or cochlear implants may improve her ability to hear.
Using visual aids when possible to communicate with your hearing-impaired child encourages independence. According to Ferris State University, many hearing- impaired children depend on visual cues. A chart on the wall, with pictures depicting the morning routine, allows your child to develop independence and reduces her frustration in not being able to hear instructions.
Along with making sure she is looking at you when you say, “Please get dressed,” point to the photo of a child getting dressed. When it is time to brush her teeth, point to the photo of a child brushing her teeth, so that she visually sees what is expected of her. Choosing visual games to play, like patty cake, can help strengthen her lip-reading skills, along with making it fun when you act it out with her!
Choosing a Communication Method
Your hearing-impaired child depends on you to choose a communication method. Several methods are available. The severity of her hearing-impairment will affect what you choose to use. If she can hear some sounds, then using a combination of spoken and sign language may work for your family.
If she cannot hear at all, you may consider sticking strictly to sign language or a combination of lip reading and sign language. Or, cochlear implant surgery is a possibility. Your child’s pediatrician can perform tests to find out if hearing aids will improve her hearing. Whichever method you choose to communicate with your child, approaching it with a positive upbeat attitude will help her accept it. And that makes everyone happy.
Making Life Doable
Regardless of the cause or extent of your child’s hearing loss, making the effort to create a learning environment for her will help her reach developmental milestones. Support groups of other parents of hearing-impaired children will provide ideas that have worked in different families. Don’t assume your child shouldn’t be included in hearing-based activities.
Finding ways to share those experiences with her via visual clues and other sensory experiences sets the foundation that she can accomplish what she wants to, even if it is by using a different approach.