Childhood is when we do the vast majority of our learning. Children are like sponges, soaking up information on everything around them as they perceive it – interpreting the actions, words and feelings of others against their own to create a picture of the world they live in. The vast majority of a little one’s learning takes place through communication and through play, but for a child with hearing loss, it can be easy to miss things, and so it’s important to try and establish good habits and the best environment possible to be able to communicate effectively. These pages feature hearing loss communication tips for children, but many, in fact most of the tips are also relevant for children with normal hearing.
As parents, whether our children have hearing loss or not, we have all considered the importance of a nurturing home environment to set up our little ones with good communication skills, even if it was just one Sunday afternoon when we worried that maybe our toddler shouldn’t have just sat watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates for the last three hours! When asked about setting up good communication habits, we would likely consider speaking clearly, repeating key words, and actively setting aside time to talk quietly to our children but when it comes to hearing loss, that’s only a small piece of the puzzle.
Communication skills take time to develop and formal attempts at establishing good communication skills will be far less effective than adopting good habits and routines in the everyday activities that surround our children. Efforts to make a rich learning and communicating environment now will work wonders in setting your deaf child up with the tools they need for a future of healthy, happy interactions with others.
Bearing this in mind, it’s also important to remember that a child with hearing loss is still a child. He or she will still live in the same world every other child will live in, and so though we should make little or large adaptations to our lives and homes to make a richer learning environment for our deaf child, we shouldn’t change things to the extent that it can make outside situations seem even more challenging. At home, maybe we can eliminate all background noise, talk slowly and clearly, and make sure rooms are well lit to encourage lip-reading but when our deaf child goes to school or to their friends house, or to the local nursery, these adaptations will likely not be there. Being able to cope and adapt to the challenges that exist when you have hearing loss will help your deaf child not to feel isolated, and to grow to be confident, independent, comfortable and secure with the world they live in.
The next pages feature some tips; some obvious and some less so, to help with good communication between you and your little one with hearing loss.