Raising a deaf child is a challenge, but then again, as with raising any child with special needs the key is always learning and employing the appropriate techniques that would help him get ready and be equipped to face the real world. What methods should be employed with regard to effectively raising your hearing-impaired child?
- Focus on your child, and not on his disability. How you relate toward your child goes a long way toward determining how he views himself. One common mistake parents make is to baby their children in an effort to protect them. While this is definitely well intentioned, remember that you don't want your child to grow up feeling inadequate or overly reliant. It may be true that your child has special needs, but then you can choose to focus on your child and his abilities, and not on what he is unable to do. Let him join activities and take up hobbies that would enhance his self-confidence and independence. Discover his interests and further it, and let him realize that his disability is not at all that defines his life.
- As much as possible, let him lead a life that is as unconstrained as the next child's. By all means, if he is of age you could let him set up a lemonade stand in your front yard or send him to buy something from the grocery. Just make sure that you brief him on all necessary precautions when outdoors: teach him how to safely cross the street, how to make a collect phone call on the TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf) in case of emergencies, who to approach when he needs help (i.e. a policeman).
- Tailor your home to accommodate your child's needs. Your home is where your child should feel most safe, and make sure that you make some modifications to ensure this to be so. For example, install fire alarms in your homes that flash lights, and put together an emergency kit that includes hearing aid batteries. Look around your home and see what else you could do to assist your child to live as normal and unconstrained life as possible.
- Research about techniques that would help your child with learning. Make sure that you have a specialist who you go to regularly to check on your child's development and progress. This specialist could advise you on the best ways your child could learn - would it be best for him to be home schooled, to go to a school for the hearing-impaired, or to attend a mainstream institution? The answer largely depends on the degree of your child's hearing loss and his specific conditions so it's best to consult a professional.
- Research the Internet for ways to assist with your child's learning. The Internet has an abundance of articles on this, written by experts on this topic and by other parents of deaf children. One such tip that you could find out is, if your child is still a baby, how to communicate with him more through touch and facial expressions.
- Learn sign language and encourage all family members to do so, too.
- Join support groups. Associating with parents of the same situation will be very helpful, as you could exchange child-rearing advice and you would be updated on latest methods on teaching hearing-impaired children. Having your child socialize with hard-of-hearing kids of his own age could also be good for him.
- Be ready to face challenges. Your child could come home telling you that a big boy from class bullied him, or that he was made fun of by some neighbors he thought were his friends. There is a big possibility that this will happen throughout his growing up years. The key is not to dread it, but to be ready for it. First of all, it's important that you raise your child as positively as possible to make him be secure in his identity and confident of his self-worth. Now, when the bullying case happens, remember that it is a valid concern not just for him as a child with special needs, but that it is a major issue most young schoolchildren and adolescents face. Open all avenues of communication; let your child know that you are there for him and that he is an individual very much loved by many. If the bullying continues, inform your child's school guidance counselor or teachers and talk with the bully's parents; take the necessary action to put an end to it.
These are just some of the ways you can raise your hearing-impaired child; remember always that the key is not to focus on the disability, but on the child himself.