Supporting Social Success For Children With Hearing Loss
Janet Jamieson recently presented in St. John’s, Newfoundland sharing information on social success for children with hearing loss. Here are some of the highlights from her talks, along with some additional tips and links for social success for children and teens.
Why are Social Skills so Important?
Through working with the CHHA-BC parents group Janet found that parents of hard of hearing children were mostly concerned with their child’s happiness, with their children feeling lonely, with their child feeling isolated, and less concerned with their child’s grades.
About 95% of hard of hearing babies are born to hearing parents. This can be overwhelming for parents and there may be a disconnect in parent-child communication from the very beginning.
When hearing parents and hearing babies interact, the parent will speak and the baby will make small vocal responses. It is a verbal “dance” of sorts and as the baby develops this dance becomes more refined. This verbal dance is one of the first building blocks of communications. If a baby has hearing loss and the parent is unaware, there can be a disconnect as the two may not be doing the same communication dance.
The Toddler Years
Around 18 months is when the child will start to see themselves as separate from the parent and becomes more self aware. It is during this stage that the child starts identifying themselves by their ability or family role. If the child has success during this stage they develop confidence, otherwise the child may be hesitant in trying new tasks.
“Children with hearing loss can follow the sequence and timeline of development in all domains as it occurs in children who hear normally when the hearing loss is identified early and managed appropriately.” (Schuyler & Broyles, 2006).
- Talk naturally to your child. Talk about what your child is doing, and what your child sees.
- Take time to listen to your child. Respond to what is said so your child knows you have been listening
- Read to your child frequently. This is the time children begin to develop early reading and writing skills.
- Accept some speech mistakes as your child develops.
Pre-School and Kindergarten
Between 3 – 6 years old is when children become increasingly aware of the world outside of their home. During this developmental stage friendship is simple. All it requires is physical proximity and a similar toy. If a child is by themselves while the rest of the group is playing together adults will often say “just go over there and ask if you can play.” By doing this we are imposing adult social norms on children. What it takes to be a friend at this stage is one word… “Hi”.
“Children need repeat experiences to learn how to interpret social cues and make good social decisions.”
Between the ages of 7 – 9 is when children will start comparing themselves to others. “I’m not like everyone else” “I’m different”. During this stage children are learning to interpret social cues. These cues are almost all verbal and when a child is hard of hearing they do not have access to all the information needed to solve these social cues.
What we may see at this stage is social withdrawal. A child sees that he doesn’t catch everything that is going on and wishes to be like his peers. The child that is hard of hearing and quiet isn’t necessarily the student that gets the attention in a class of 27. What this might look like is a child on the outside or a child that seems to interrupt inappropriately. A child that doesn’t want to be looked at as different from their peers will start rejecting their hearing aids, FM systems and other technologies. It is important to teach children at a young age about their technology and keep them heavily involved in the process so that they feel more accepting of their technology when they reach this stage.
Children need a trusting relationship with an adult. Parents can help if they have a healthy acceptance of their child’s hearing loss. It is important for parents and teachers to understand that being hard of hearing affects every aspect of their lives.
Between the ages of 9 -13 friendships are initiated by offer or invitation. Kids are starting to handle social conflicts on their own and students are more likely to look to their peers for social clues. It is important to build leadership skills for these students.
As children move into their junior high years they become increasingly independent from their family and friends as they establish their role in society. This is the time they explore who they are, what they like, and what they want to do.
Friendships are really important in (alleviating feelings) at this stage. From a hard of hearing child’s perspective their hearing loss is the cause of most of their social problems. What we might observe in their behaviour is the rejection of outward indicators they have hearing loss.
The goal is to keep the conversation going. Use continuing statements – let the child do most of the talking. If a teen comes to you expressing frustration with their FM system talk it through with them. Ask them what it is that frustrates them about their hearing technology rather than saying you have to do this.
Extracurricular activities are very important throughout all the developmental stages. Through early entry into activities children will learn good social skills and from an early age learn how to be a self advocate.
For more social and emotional development in children check out the following resources: