First Steps When a Child is Deaf or Hard of Hearing
If you’ve recently found out that your child is experiencing hearing loss, you may be feeling a lot of different emotions. As a hearing parent, you may have no previous experience with the deaf and hard of hearing community. You may be worried about how your child will do lots of the basic things that others take for granted: connecting with friends, learning in school, going to camp… eventually driving a car, or succeeding at a career. Feelings of nervousness, unease, confusion, and even grief are normal.
Depending on your child’s age and the diagnosis or magnitude of hearing loss, there are many options for you and your family. As part of Better Hearing and Speech Month, we’ll break down some initial steps to consider after a diagnosis.
Feel all the feelings.
The process of getting a child’s hearing evaluated can be straightforward but, often, it takes many doctor visits, tests, and hours spent with your child in a screening booth. It can be taxing on a parent, and a child. And whether you’re feeling relief or are heartbroken after the diagnosis, allow yourself the space to acknowledge and process. Trust that resources are available but you don’t have to find them all right away.
Parenting is hard enough already. A diagnosis can feel intimidating. You’ll want to prioritize your own mental health as you learn to embrace a new way of life. One that includes many beautiful surprises.
Early Intervention for Children Under 3 Years Old
Early intervention is so important to support a child's language growth and development during those critical years. If your child is diagnosed before the age of three, contact your local Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program. You can get a referral from Texas Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, pediatrician, ENT and audiologist. Additionally, parents can self-refer, even if they are still undergoing diagnosis.
Once connected with ECI, a specialist will answer questions and help navigate the next steps for your baby and your family.
Resources for School-Age ChildrenResources for School-Age Children
If your child has late onset hearing loss, a good place to start is by contacting your child’s school. Your school’s website should have someone listed as a Child Find Coordinator or 504 Coordinator. If you can’t find the 504 Coordinator for your campus, you can call the school directly and ask who to speak to about accommodations.
Another good place to start, regardless of your child’s age or deaf/hard of hearing diagnosis, is the Statewide Outreach Center (SOC). Housed at the Texas School for the Deaf, SOC provides parents and caregivers a multitude of resources for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. With SOC, you will find everything from assistive technology and communication resources, to mental health services and parent liaisons. Your child does not need to be a student at Texas School for the Deaf to take advantage of SOC resources.
If your child is 0 to 12 years old—or your child is over age 12 but has been newly diagnosed with hearing loss or is a first-time hearing assistive-device user—Any Baby Can’s Children’s Hearing Aid Texas program is available for families who want to explore hearing aids.
Connect with other parents.
Parenting a child with a medical diagnosis can feel isolating. One of the best sources of inspiration and information is other parents. If you’re looking for this kind of support, the Guide by Your Side program at Texas Hands & Voices can get you connected with other families who are on a similar path. Texas Hands & Voices is a parent-led nonprofit providing resources, peer support and advocacy. By connecting with other parents you can vent, have emotional conversations, and celebrate achieving developmental milestones together with someone who "gets it."
“What families need is a trusted source that can route them in the right direction. You have choices as a parent. And you have a voice, and it’s OK to use it loudly for your child,” says Jackie Gregory, ECI Child Find & Outreach Coordinator, and Early Intervention Specialist with Any Baby Can.
Texas Parent to Parent is another great organization for families looking to connect with other parents, especially if your child has additional needs.
Support your child.
Each child will have their own journey with hearing loss. No matter the child’s age at diagnosis, it can be difficult to feel different. Your child may worry about friendships, relationships, school and activities. Your attitude toward the process will impact how your child internalizes their diagnosis.
Start by modeling the behavior you want to see. Show them how to take care of their hearing devices, how to communicate their needs clearly, and how to be confident in their body. Books for everyone in the family are a great place to start if you’re new to the deaf and hard of hearing community. Watch videos, attend events, and find opportunities to get connected with other kids who look and sound like they do. Remember that your child is working extra hard to listen, visually taking in the world around them, and communicate. Kids may experience “brain drain” that comes with that. Schedule device breaks or quiet time to recharge. Remind friends, siblings and teachers to be patient and supportive.
Here are some good tools to share with your child:
- A list of children’s books from Deafunity
- Kid-friendly sites like ASL Nook and Signing Time, which have videos and activities
- Explore retreats, camps and other community building activities in your area
- There are lots of shows and movies featuring deaf or hard of hearing kiddos, including a scene in Toy Story 4 that shows a little boy wearing a cochlear implant in his Kindergarten class
You are not alone on this journey.
It can feel like a lot all at once, especially the first year. However, life will settle and you will find a community of support. Making big decisions for your child is a heavy burden; early intervention is important, but it’s not the end. As soon as you have a diagnosis, you’ll figure out appropriate medical intervention and communication needs. There will be ebbs and flows, when accommodations or their equipment is working, and then, inevitably, something pops up. Nevertheless, there are resources you can access and families who have gone through this journey before you.
It's important to get your child's hearing screened regularly. If you suspect your child may have hearing loss, your child is exhibiting learning differences, or you’ve seen a change in your child’s attentiveness, contact your pediatrician to request a hearing test.
Resources for Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Statewide Outreach Center
Texas Hands and Voices (TXHV)
Parent to Parent
To contact the Family Support Program, dial 737-484-9044; for Pathways to Adulthood Program, dial 737-484-9045. If you don’t know who to contact, just send an email to email@example.com.
Support for parents through case management, and financial aid for devices if the family choses to use assistive listening devices.
After unexpected setbacks, Angela and Matti were able to find new confidence in their journey with childhood hearing loss.
Years after he contracted bacterial meningitis, Eric’s mom noticed developmental delays and got connected with Any Baby Can.