menu toggle icon
Find Care:
Speech Therapy
Occupational Therapy
Physical Therapy
Learn:
Read Expert Guides
Resources for families with deaf and hard of hearing kids

Resources for families with deaf and hard of hearing kids

Updated: April 15, 2024 · 5 Minute Read

Elizabeth Kim, Entertainment & News Media Fellow at RespectAbility

Written by:

Elizabeth Kim, Entertainment & News Media Fellow at RespectAbility

Highlights

  • Learn American Sign Language (ASL) and encourage the people in your child’s life to do the same.
  • Adapt to your deaf/HoH child’s communication needs, such as minimizing background noise, learning sign language, writing things down, etc.
  • Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), children with disabilities qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and are entitled to a free appropriate public education.
  • Support your child’s emotional and mental health. Embrace the Deaf/HoH community.

The experiences of deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) children are so diverse, depending on their upbringing. Some may grow up with cochlear implants and use spoken language as their primary form of communication. Others may identify more with the Deaf community, connected through sign language and a shared culture. Or some fall between, using a mix of both languages.

 

There’s no one right way of raising a deaf/HoH child, because each family’s decision is personal. This guide is for parents, teachers, and community members who want to help create a more inclusive society for deaf/HoH children.

 

Here are some expert tips:

 

1. Promote good communication

Because your child is deaf or hard of hearing, you’ll need to help create an environment that aligns with your child’s communication skills. Some tips include minimizing background noise, making sure the room is well-lit, and writing things down.

 

Lip-reading can help at first, but it’s not enough on its own to develop good communication skills. Only 30–40% of speech can be understood through lip-reading, even in the best of conditions. Instead, it’s recommended to expose your deaf child to sign language, so that you can better connect with them.

 

 

2. Commit to learning American Sign Language (ASL) and teaching others basic signs

One big myth many parents with deaf children encounter is that learning sign language hinders the child’s ability to learn English. This is false! There’s no risk in introducing children to ASL. Research shows that the deaf child will only benefit from learning the two languages. It actually increases the child’s access to information and communication. This provides the child more chances to take part in social interactions across different communities.

 

As you learn more about your child’s world, spread awareness about deafness and hearing disabilities in your community. Encourage others to be understanding and supportive. Here is a list of free sign language resources from classes, online videos, and games. There’s even a YouTube channel that provides popular kids shows in ASL!

 

3. Explore assistive technology together

Most medical professionals may recommend cochlear implants or hearing aids to your deaf/HoH child, depending on the degree of their hearing loss. Hearing aids are designed to amplify sound. Cochlear implants require surgery and use electrical signals to interpret sound.

 

Deciding whether to get a cochlear implant or not is a very personal, and tough, decision. Make sure to discuss with your child’s doctors the benefits and complications. Talk to families who were also in your situation. Educate yourself on the Deaf community and culture.

 

While there’s many upsides to cochlear implantation, it can be a very expensive process. It can also be emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, and socially draining for parents and kids. The total cost of cochlear implantation, which includes the devices, surgery, and rehabilitation, ranges from $50,000 to $100,000. Thankfully, most private insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, provide some coverage.

 

The most important thing to remember is that hearing aids and cochlear implants are not a “cure” to hearing loss. Assistive technology assists deaf/HoH people in understanding speech.

 

4. Use visual learning, such as word walls and semantic maps

Visual aids may be incredibly helpful. Label things in the kitchen, bathroom, and rooms. Use tools such as visual schedules, diagrams, and captions to help kids understand and remember information. Use effective strategies such as word walls and semantic maps. Allow processing time for your child to understand both the visual content and the explanation. Repetition is important.

 

5. Advocate for school accommodations

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), children with disabilities qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The purpose of an IEP is to help your child thrive in the classroom by planning how a school’s education, support, and services will meet your child’s learning needs. Over the course of your child’s school years, you’ll have regular IEP meetings to track your child’s progress and make adjustments. Accommodations may include working with sign language interpreters, watching videos with captions, and using FM systems.

 

As a parent, you have an important role in the process because you have a greater understanding of your child. Remember that it is your child’s right to receive accommodations and a free, appropriate, public education. It might be helpful to take a look at previous Supreme Court rulings to get a better idea of what your child is entitled to: Luna Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools (2023), Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (2009), Board of Education v. Rowley (1982).

 

For answers to common IEP questions, check out this guide.

 

6. Support your child’s emotional and mental health

Your kiddo might feel left out or frustrated, especially if they’re regularly surrounded by hearing peers who don’t “get” it. Give your child emotional support. Teach them how to self-advocate. Help them connect with other kids who understand their experience. Support their independence. Let them take charge of their own needs and choices. If you feel your child could benefit from some professional support, find out which therapies are best for your child using our quiz.

 

7. Encourage participation in clubs and extracurricular activities

Encourage your child to join extracurricular activities. Art classes, sports, and sign language groups are good options. It can boost their confidence, help them socialize, and make them well-rounded individuals. You might want to explore blending their interests with therapeutic services like art therapy or equine-assisted therapy.

 

8. Find a supportive community

Get involved with local organizations, support groups, and professionals specializing in those hard of hearing. They can offer guidance, resources, and opportunities for your kiddo’s development. The more you know, the better you can support your child.

 

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Hands & Voices is a parent-driven, nonprofit organization that provides unbiased support, regarding communication methodology and technology, to families with deaf or hard of hearing children.
  • Gallaudet University — Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center is a federally funded institution offering exemplary academic programs to deaf/HoH students. They provide early intervention services, sign language classes, and uniquely designed resources for deaf/HoH communities.
  • Hearing Loss Association of America is a nonprofit organization with a mission to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss by providing information, education, support, and advocacy.
  • National Association of the Deaf is the nation’s premiere civil rights organization with a mission to preserve, protect, and promote the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people in America.
  • The Facebook group Cochlear Implant Experiences is where people can share their cochlear implant experiences, ask questions, and share information with people who are considering one.

 

If your child has a developmental difference, check out our list of favorite resources for parents.

 

Conclusion

Navigating disability is a life-long journey, and every child is unique. Understand your child’s specific needs and preferences. Encourage their independence, self-advocacy, and cheer-lead their choices. With communication, empathy, and ongoing support, you can help your deaf or hard of hearing child thrive!

Dive Deeper