For Hear Indiana by Janna Breanna
Children are either born hard-of-hearing or it can develop over time, sometimes due to severe cases of childhood illnesses like meningitis, measles, and mumps. Two to three of every 1,000 children are born with some level of hearing loss in the U.S. – more than 90% are born to hearing parents. Even though a significant portion of society belongs to the deaf community, most cities and places still aren’t deaf-friendly.
Whether children are born hard of hearing or become hard of hearing in childhood, they face several developmental and social challenges. They may experience delayed speech and language development, learning challenges in school, and difficulties with establishing confidence. It is time for the world to become more accommodating of different people, especially children. Here are some ways to create a better and more accessible world for children who are hard-of-hearing:
Learn how to communicate with them
Children are continuously learning, soaking up all the information they can get. And communication is essential to their holistic learning. Children who are deaf communicate differently than you. They communicate through a range of visual, auditory, and tactile modes.
Common visual communication modes include American Sign Language (ASL), cued speech, speech or lip-reading, and other gestures. Some children who are hard-of-hearing may communicate through auditory modes, aided by hearing devices or cochlear implants. Tactile modalities are generally used for deaf children who are also blind or have low-vision; this type of communication relies on touch. Acknowledge how each child communicates and find ways to be able to have a reciprocal interaction with them. You can start by learning basic ASL or by using body and facial gestures.
Use assistive technology
The pandemic has been a challenge for most people, but it’s been particularly difficult for children who are hard-of-hearing. Most of them use lip-reading to understand others. With the use of masks, that has become an impossible task. Although, there are several ways to circumvent this roadblock.
For instance, you can have a simple mobile app like Signly where you can input words that it then translates to sign language. For older children who can read, you can opt for apps that create live transcriptions of verbalized language, such as AVA and Rogervoice, so children who are hard-of-hearing can carry conversations.
Adopt early interventions
Being hard-of-hearing shouldn’t impede a child’s success and progress. Children who are deaf are just as capable as those who aren’t. In their early, formative years, parents need to acknowledge that and take the necessary steps to ensure that their children aren’t disadvantaged.
Early interventions are invaluable. These include auditory-verbal therapy and medical treatment for those with other underlying conditions. As most children still need to remain at home amid the pandemic, families have opted for teletherapy, letting them meet with a range of different specialists to ensure their children are getting the best help.
The good news is that the rise of digital arrangements not only allows more medical professionals to contact their patients, it is helping plug the shortage of practitioners for children, such as pediatric nurses that specialize in helping deaf children in some areas of the UK. They now have access to online nursing doctorate programs which is allowing more students to train in specialized fields such as pediatrics. With the impending shortage of physicians (100,000 open positions by 2025), this training will help ensure that children who are hard-of-hearing will continue to get expert care moving forward. Early interventions set children up for a better future, allowing them to learn techniques and strategies to aid them in navigating the world at large.
Advocate for a deaf-friendly community
There has to be a constant push for a more deaf-friendly and inclusive environment. As adults, it’s your responsibility to help enact the change your children need. You have to be an advocate for these changes.
You can start with simple steps like asking your local community to prioritize accessibility and inclusivity in mind when designing communal spaces. Some spaces may be too dark to lip-read for people who are hard-of-hearing, or too loud to decipher voices. Attention to detail like this can make a world of difference for deaf children. You can also organize sensitivity training or awareness seminars for your community, enlisting more people to the cause.
Article for hearindiana.org
By Janna Breanna