Establishing and maintaining good habits is the best way to support your child with hearing loss to develop good communication skills, but it’s also the hardest to adapt to and keep up with. Like the other tips, it’s not always practical to do these things all of the time, but it’s important to try. If you do feel you fail on some of these, don’t kick yourself. As important as good habits are, not everyone your child comes into contact with, now or in the future, is going to have as great communication skills as you do and being adaptable and learning to deal with challenging situations is an important skill for little ones with and without hearing loss. So here are the tips…
Get up Close
- When picking up both receptive and expressive language, children with even a mild hearing loss will rely at least in part on lip-reading and facial expressions to fill in any gaps they may have missed in the words you have spoken. If you get up close to your deaf child, not only will they have a far better chance of hearing everything you say, but they will be getting a good opportunity to practice picking up visual cues that will help them cope in the future
- In many ways, this tip is similar to reducing background noise. Obviously, when there are multiple people speaking at one time, there is competing noise and it can be hard for a deaf child to filter out one sound from another, and they can end up feeling confused or isolated from the situation. Turn taking is also generally good manners, and should help your little one to build good relationships with others. You can play turn taking as well as anticipation games to help with this, but as with the other tips, the most effective teaching methods are those that are informal, and just happen within the everyday routine.
- If you are teaching your deaf child sign language, try to get everybody (including any of your other children) involved on a full time basis, even when your little one with hearing loss isn’t around. This should help boost your child’s confidence because they won’t feel singled out in the way that they experience communication compared to everyone else – almost as if they relied on a translator. Also, it means they will be exposed to ‘overhearing’ the general goings on of a household, and have full access to what is going on, the same as a hearing child.
Enthusiasm and Support
- Encourage your deaf child to communicate with others in the same way you would any hearing child. Don’t be tempted to speak or communicate for them. Be proud of and enthusiastic about their communication attempts so they can be confident in themselves.
Keep Your Face Clear
- Your child needs to see your lips to lip-read. Avoid obvious mistakes such as chewing while you speak, leaning your head on your hands or obscuring your lips by any other means.
- When you have a child with hearing loss, it can be easy to get into a habit of avoiding certain situations. ‘That water splash area is just too loud and echoey for my little one. They can’t hear.’ In your deaf child’s life, he or she will come across situations where it is difficult to hear and understand what’s going on, but it’s important for them to become accustomed to dealing with these situations so they can have the same chances and experiences all other kids have. Be adaptive and use whatever means works to communicate with your little one in noisy or difficult situations, and they will learn to be confident and adaptable themselves.