Engage with your hearing impaired child

PARENTS are the most important and primary source of early language input to their children.

The quantity of language input from the parents during the early years of child’s growth is related to children’s language development which can have long- lasting implications for overall academic success.

The critical period for language development is generally regarded as the first three years of life. Children learn to talk by listening to speech. In order to learn the language, these children must be able to hear clearly. But, how can a deaf child hear and talk?

The average age of identification of the hearing loss in children is about 2 1/2 years. Parents of children who are deaf have better chances to develop their children’s oral language skills with the use of a hearing aid or cochlear implant depending on the severity of the hearing loss.

The hearing aid/ cochlear implant provides access to speech cues that are essential for the development of spoken language.

The hearing aid/ cochlear implant improves hearing thresholds, where children learn to understand speech sounds, which further improves and promotes communication, influencing positively the patient’s quality of life.

Implantation of infants as young as 12 months of age can be achieved safely and has been reported to be encouraging and positively improving.

Indeed, children who receive implants during infancy are more likely to achieve age-appropriate spoken language development compared to those who receive implants later.

For more information about hearing aid/cochlear implant for your child, consult a professional.

However, for the development of spoken language, parents of children with hearing aid/ cochlear implant must learn to support their children with their language input in the early stage of development for effective verbal communication.

Parents must make it a point to speak especially if the child is using a hearing aid or has undergone a cochlear implant as such input affects the children’s communicative development. Parents also need to:

• Improve the child’s speaking ability.

Children continuously absorb language while speaking to their parents. This will help them to improve their understanding of sentence structures.

• Enhance a child’s emotional development.

Children usually express their feelings through words. They match their feelings and emotions to words and convey them to their parents which may help them resolve their problems. They may become frustrated when unable to do so.

• Understand your child

Children share their dreams, hopes and fears through talking to their parents. This will enable the parents to gain a more in-depth understanding of their child. At the same time, children feel that there are heard and valued.

• Understand instructions

Children are continually being given instructions by their parents. It is easier for them to absorb short, direct instructions at regular intervals.

• Keep track of your child’s development

Children go through different key stages and parents will have a clear idea of their children’s progress, while talking to them.

Here’s how to equip yourself while talking to your child who wears a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

You have to first make sure that your child’s hearing aid/ cochlear implant is functioning properly and your child can hear you. This can be done by calling out his name or telling him to do something simple and watch his response. If he responds or is able to do it correctly, then the implant is functioning.

• Listen! Listen! Listen!

Stop whatever you are doing when your child wants to say something. Neglecting him will make him feel that you don’t care and don’t have time for them. Use words such as ‘Wow!, I am here, I know, Tell me more!, Good job and Great’, when communicating with them.

• Power in choice

Give your child a choice when talking to him. Let him feel that you are talking and asking him rather than talking and telling him.

Make a healthy two-way conversation and be actively engaged in the conversation. If you are in a noisy environment, try to reduce the noise by lowering the volume, eg; TV or radio, or talk nearer to him, as your child might not be able to hear you clearly.

• Avoid false statements and words out of anger

Speak to your child truthfully and calmly. Your child will learn to listen and believe in your words. Trust and respect come from honesty and sincerity. Don’t say something when you don’t mean it.

• Source of encouragement

Children should feel inspired, recharged and relieved when they speak to you. They should not feel sad. So, offer your ears and encouraging words when they share their problem or situation with you. Use encouraging words such as ‘Think it over, You will figure this out, Don’t worry, I am here to help you and I know you can handle it’.

• Place of comfort

When your child comes to you with a problem, think before you react. Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes and step away from being the parents. An ‘implanted’ child might feel different from his normal hearing friends. Tell him that the hearing aid or the cochlear implant is to help him.

• Avoid lots of questioning and drill routine

When your child shares something with you, as a parent, you might need to give your view and opinion.

Try to address the behaviour or action and not the child. If your child feels like he is disappointing you, he might not share anything in the future.

• Be the initiator

It will be exciting for your child when you follow up on a previous subject of interest before your child comes to you. This will bring you into your child’s circle and show him that you care.

• Time to share

Have some sharing time with your child. Drop everything and spend some quality time with thim like doing homework together or going out for holidays especially when you are a busy working parent. Nothing wrong in apologising.

Say sorry if you do or say something that you shouldn’t have. If you make a mistake, admit it. This will teach your child to admit their wrong doing too.

• Love

Tell your child that you love him. Express your feelings to him. Spend time and let him know that being with him is the best time spent.

Dr. Deepashini Harithasan

Institute of Ear, Hearing and Speech (Institute- HEARS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

Institute HEARS is a service institute that provides ENT, audiology and speech therapy services for individuals with hearing Loss.

Source: The Star Online

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