Raising Deaf Children
The majority (more than 90%) of d/Deaf children are born to hearing parents. Naturally, it comes as quite a shock, and soon the realization sets in that not only do those parents need to be a parent but an advocate. They need to research and find resources for the sake of their child. It can be overwhelming to navigate a topic you previously knew nothing about. Here are some common difficulties parents find themselves confronting and ways they can be good advocates and allies.
Give them tools to succeed
Learning ASL from a young age helps d/Deaf toddlers get a better grasp of the English language. Early years are vital for linguistic development, so the earlier they get started, the better. Cochlear implants and auditory therapy are personal choices, and of course, their impact depends upon each child’s case of deafness. It’s not something everyone can afford, so don’t carry any guilt for options you can’t present them with. After all, remember: not hearing is their normal, and they don’t feel disadvantaged.
Should you immerse them in Deaf communities?
That decision is ultimately up to you. It’s completely understandable to want your child to be surrounded by people who’ve faced the same adversities. Just know that three-quarters of d/Deaf children attend mainstream schools, so opting for conventional educational programs over d/Deaf educational programs doesn’t make you a bad parent. However, two-thirds of d/Deaf students find difficulty making any friends in mainstream settings. If it’s possible, and you’re looking to immerse your child in Deaf culture, it may be beneficial to find local programs and social groups that can connect your kid to other children who deal with deafness. They may get older and decide that isn’t the space for them, but you can find comfort knowing you presented them with an option. There are even summer camps available for forming friendships.
Be their confidant
Being the only deaf student in a setting can bring feelings of social isolation. It’s understandable – imagine in a room full of people whose language you can’t speak and trying to form connections. If they are struggling with their learning curriculum or relating to their peers, build a relationship where they can trust you with their battles.
Talk to their principal and teachers
Implement a plan for integrating your child into the classroom. The faculty should be there to help students succeed and figure out accommodations. If the administration isn’t doing enough to help your child, don’t hesitate to seek other schooling options. Quality education is a priority, and if one school isn’t willing to go above and beyond, there’s another that will. If you feel your child is being underserved, don’t back down.
Find them a role model
Role models are essential, whether it be a d/Deaf tutor, babysitter, or find characters in books and tv shows. Representation means everything to children. They deserve to know that there are people like them who live rich and colorful lives, which can be superheroes, princesses, athletes, and astronauts. Every kid deserves someone to look up to.
Get involved with disability rights
The world is improving, but it is still not a perfect place. There’s still a lot to be done in terms of equality, and your child should grow up in a world as fair and accepting as possible. Being outspoken about your journey with your child helps other parents, and speaking about the needs of d/Deaf people empowers the marginalized members of society. Join organizations like the Hearing Loss Association of America or the American Society for Deaf Children. Advocate for much-needed accommodations like captioning, disability benefits, and understanding from the hearing community.
Keep them safe this Halloween
Gear them up with reflective clothing! It will be dark, and they can’t sense nearby vehicles. If that’s not available, glowsticks or flashlights work also. Avoid headbands, hats, or anything that might disrupt hearing aids. If your child has a cellphone, make sure they share their location with you and plan on a meeting spot if they get separated from their group. Lastly, instill the importance of using crosswalks in your child.
Above all else, know that this is your child’s normal. Those who have been d/Deaf from a young age don’t feel like they’re missing out on anything. They long for a society that accepts their normal too. Together we can build a future that is inclusive and easy to navigate for everyone. Contact us today!