We all know that young children need adults to advocate for them since they’re too young to speak up for themselves. Overseeing your child’s education and first steps out into the world can be both your greatest joy and biggest challenge. With so many different decisions that need to be made, all babies need strong voices to make sure they have the richest opportunities during their early years.
Although parents are natural advocates for their children, they often feel inadequate to do so when they first learn their child has a hearing loss (or any other diagnosis for that matter). This is compounded by the fact that most children with hearing loss are born to parents with typical hearing and no history of hearing loss in the family. For most parents, their child is the first person with hearing loss they’ve ever met.
Surrounding yourself with professionals who can support you by providing unbiased and evidence-based information is the key. This ensures that parents can gain the confidence to make informed choices. After all, no one knows a child better and has their best interests in mind like the parents.
The world of hearing loss can be wide and overwhelming, so finding a balance of information is important. If it’s your first time navigating there’s a lot to learn. But how to do this when you are grieving and sleep-deprived? If you’re not sure what to speak up for, here are some guidelines in order to get started on the right track:
- This Is What My Child Needs: Once you’ve determined with your pediatrician and audiologist the type of hearing loss and best available treatment methods (including technologies such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, speech therapy, specialized nursery school programs, etc), a plan can be put in place. Work with your state early intervention program to put together an appropriate IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan). As soon as you know what your child needs at home/school/daycare/therapy, be clear with every professional and family member that works with your child what exactly it is that they need.
- This Is Why They Need It: When you explain clearly why your child needs something, you’re much more likely to receive it. For example, “If we go this route with therapy, the outcome will be this.” “If she has this hearing aid, it will improve this.”
- This Is What Happens When They Get The Accommodation: “When my child receives the proper technology to help them thrive, they will be able to hear everything around them and the sky is the limit.” “If the assistance they need is provided in school, they can excel just like all of the other students.” The child will feel included, and they will be given the tools, skills, and confidence to accomplish anything they want in life.
- This Is What Happens When They Don’t Get The Accommodation: Most of us take our hearing for granted, but just imagine not being able to hear what’s going on around you. Children may feel isolated or excluded, and they may not be able to participate at the same level as their peers. This can lead to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and feeling like they don’t belong. They won’t reach milestones that should be easily reached with the proper accommodations. And, most importantly, if they do not receive the necessary technology and/or services, they may not be able to hear!
Children with hearing loss have the same ability to achieve as any other child. Their capabilities are not limited by the inability to hear, they just need to learn (and hear) differently. It’s up to parents and caregivers to learn the needs of children with hearing loss and speak up for them. With access to the proper technology and early intervention, they can truly lead limitless lives.