Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
The possibilities for babies today who are diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing to learn listening and spoken language (LSL) are very real. However, not all children diagnosed with hearing loss are newborns. Many are diagnosed well after their first birthday. Some children also have challenges in addition to their hearing loss. While their LSL journey may be a bit different, most children can learn communication skills in the same language spoken in your family home. These challenges can be turned into opportunities for your child to reach their full potential.
OPPORTUNITIES WHEN LATER IDENTIFIED
A diagnosis of hearing loss is often a shock and unexpected for most parents. Many parents report feelings of loss and grief as they try to understand what the hearing loss means and figure out what they should do next. If your child is diagnosed well after birth, you may have other questions such as “Will my child do well with a LSL approach even if they were diagnosed later?” and “What about early brain development and the critical window of opportunity?”
While there are many factors to consider, the decision-making journey is the same:
- Get appropriate hearing technology fitted as soon as possible to provide the best speech and sound access to your child’s brain through their ears.
- Find and start LSL intervention services with a focus on listening to learn communication skills for the best LSL outcome for your child.
- Commit to using LSL strategies every day.
LIVING THE LSL LIFE: SOUNDS OF THE CITY
Watch as Marcia seeks the best LSL outcome for her daughter Malia.
OPPORTUNITIES WHEN THERE ARE OTHER CHALLENGES
Approximately 40% of children with hearing loss have one or more challenges in addition to hearing loss. This means that many parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing are also experiencing decision-making at many different points of the journey. You may be dealing with many different professionals and navigating schedules for multiple intervention appointments. The opportunities for you to meet these challenges is to learn some skills that will help you keep up with the complexity of what you have to do:
- Learn about quality LSL programs that understand and support your goals.
- Learn as much as you can about creating the best team to work with that can support a positive LSL outcome.
- Develop communication strategies to keep all team members informed on behalf of your child.
- Seek support from other families who are experiencing similar challenges.
- Seek professional support for yourself if you find that you need more tools to cope with your everyday activities.
LIVING THE LSL LIFE: DAVID’S JOURNEY
“Seeing the progress that David has made, we’re tremendously optimistic. If you’re willing to work hard, and if your children are willing to work hard, you’ll be OK.”
OPPORTUNITIES OF ADVOCACY
As your child enters school, they may need to continue LSL services, have other needs that require different kinds of support, or be enrolled in a mainstream classroom with support. Your child might also be enrolled in a classroom to meet their needs in all aspects of development. They may receive intervention services during the school day with a teacher of the deaf, speech-language pathologist, or physical therapist.
If this is the case, and you have been working toward a LSL outcome, you’ll need to learn about the process of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and the team of professionals who’ll assess your child and develop goals for their IEP. As a part of that team, you’ll speak on behalf of your child’s needs. As an advocate, you’ll want to make sure that your child’s listening and spoken language needs are addressed at all times when at school.
This means you'll help teachers and other school personnel learn about your child's hearing loss and hearing device(s), as well as provide information on strategies you've found helpful to your child.
You’ll need to provide the school team with a current assessment report and keep them updated by sharing audiological assessments and recommendations.
Communicating with your educational team at the school will help your child have a better school experience.
Parent Advocacy Training - If you want to learn more about how to advocate for your child in the school environment, the AG Bell Association for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing has a free online Parent Advocacy Training Course that will help build your knowledge and confidence.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENRICHED FAMILY LIFE
Having a child with hearing loss can put a strain on your family relationships. You and a spouse or significant other may cope with the challenges of hearing loss in different ways. If you have other children, the responsibility to maintain a balance of care for all of your children can also be a challenge.
Here are some ideas to consider as you think about your own family and the challenges you face:
- For the best LSL outcomes, the importance of acting early and attending weekly LSL intervention sessions can't be stressed enough. To help reach those outcomes, seek the support of other caregivers, family, and friends to help you. You may need a friend to take your child to a LSL intervention session so that you can take another child to a doctor appointment, a sporting event, or a school field trip. You will need to make decisions based on the needs of all of your family members to maintain a healthy balance.
- If you’re a single parent, you may find it helpful to get support from extended family members or close friends. You may need help with childcare so that you can get time to rest or you may need for another family member to take your child to intervention. Ask for help if you need services for yourself to cope with this responsibility.
- If you share parenting with another partner, individually you may think differently or have different levels of knowledge about hearing loss. It is important that both of you attend as many audiological visits and intervention sessions as possible. For LSL to be a success, parents must accept the role of primary teacher of their child in the early years so it will be important for you and your partner to act together on decision making and seek advice as needed.
- The loss of a job, family illness, or a death in the family are all events that can happen without warning. These types of stressful events can have a significant impact on your family and affect how you are able to manage your child’s audiological and/or LSL intervention schedule. By maintaining good communication with your professional team you can make short term adjustments to your schedule so that you can take care of all of your family. Do your best for all involved and get back to the regular routine as soon as possible.
- If you are unable to get to LSL intervention appointments because you do not have a car or are unable to drive, let your LSL interventionist know so they can help you find resources.
There are no specific promises that every child and family who chooses a LSL outcome will learn to listen, talk, read at grade level, and do well in school. There are circumstances that make that possibility a bigger challenge for some families. However, many families who have walked the LSL journey with a full commitment to the approach have seen their child learn to communicate in their home language and joyfully participate in family life.