What does a child need to thrive? All children need love, support, encouragement, role models and opportunity as their foundation.
These positive inputs contribute to a child thriving at school, socially and in general life. For deaf children, they are even more important. This is because deaf children can feel left behind or isolated due to communication barriers, so a conscious effort needs to be made to ensure they can grow and thrive.
We’ve put together a guide for parents and carers of deaf children to aid them with the best start possible. Plus, some ways to help support a deaf child’s emotional wellbeing and tips for good mental health at school and beyond.
Love, Support & Encouragement
At whatever stage your child is diagnosed with hearing loss or deafness, how you approach their deafness can impact their mental health and self-esteem.
It’s tempting for parents to fixate on helping their child develop language, but the National Deaf Children’s Society says “while language is important, it is just as important to a child’s emotional health and wellbeing that they feel loved, supported and included regardless of how they communicate.”
Communication will come in time. Love and support are the basis for a good upbringing.
No matter how young, ensuring that a child doesn’t feel they’ve done something wrong is paramount. Try not to apologise for a child’s deafness. To develop good self-esteem, it’s important for them to learn to own their deafness, not apologise for it, and their family should set the example.
Similarly, for children to gain independence it’s best not to answer for them when they can answer themselves. Encourage deaf children to be proud and honest about their deafness wherever possible.
Deaf Role Models
Role-models are important to a child’s social-emotional development, and even more important when the child belongs to a minority group, such as being deaf. When children don’t have a role model they identify with, it can lead to a lack in confidence, or the child believing that their social and career options are limited.
Exposing deaf children to adult deaf role models is vital to their development. Raising and educating deaf children suggests that deaf children “benefit from seeing how deaf adults navigate the day-to-day in their world”.
For deaf children, it’s empowering to see deaf adults succeeding in everyday situations. It often provides opportunities for the child to learn how to navigate uncomfortable conversations around deafness, whilst instilling a sense of confidence about being deaf.
Because of this, it’s important that a deaf child spends time with deaf adults, particularly if the child has hearing parents, as 90% of deaf children do.
Social media provides opportunities for deaf children to follow inspirational deaf individuals, both children and adults. Many deaf charities run Role Model programmes for children, find out more about the Deaf Unity Role Model programme here
Every month, Deaf Unity celebrates an outstanding Deaf Role Model from the deaf community to inspire others, read our latest interviews here.
Although many deaf children thrive at school, it can be challenging.
Whether your deaf child attends a mainstream or deaf school, there are a few ways to help support their development throughout their education. Take a look at these suggestions from dots in sign language.
Although some deaf children may be assigned a member of staff to support them at school, such as a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD), communication support worker (CSW) or learning support assistant (LSA), here’s some ways to help your deaf child succeed in every school setting:
- Ask that your deaf child can sit close to the front where it’s easier to lipread and hearing aids are more likely to be in range
- Provide teachers with an outline of your deaf child’s specific needs, such as how to get their attention, their communication challenges and preferences, and details of any technology they use
- Ask that your child’s teachers access training on how best to support deaf children in the classroom, such as facing the class when speaking, making sure the lighting is good, and turning on subtitles when showing videos
- Ensure teachers make deaf children feel comfortable to ask questions, and provide extra support or written materials if the child needs them
- Ask the school if they can provide a dedicated quiet space for your child to communicate with their friends at break times if the background noise of the playground is too overwhelming
- Pair your child up with a hearing buddy who can keep an eye out for them and check they’ve understood instructions, for example in PE, or during school outings
Good mental health is an important part of every child’s development. There are many ways parents can promote positive mental health for a deaf child. here are five of our favourites:
Talk about emotions
Being able to acknowledge and discuss emotions is the basis of positive mental health.
Encourage deaf children to be open with their emotions by making scrapbooks or flashcards showing different emotions, and having a daily mood check-in. Even if children don’t yet understand the language, this will help them become comfortable with the concept of mental health
Make them feel included
Deaf people often experience feelings of loneliness and being left out. That’s why it’s important to ensure your deaf child is included in the home environment as much as possible.
If a child has hearing siblings, make sure they’re educated about the best communication methods and are encouraged to use them, so the deaf child can have the same hearing experiences as them at home.
All children need encouragement to take on new challenges, but it’s especially important to praise and acknowledge a deaf child’s triumphs to help their confidence grow.
Why not create an achievements board and ask your child to write one thing their proud of themselves for each week.
Never apologise for their deafness
Whether at school, or in public settings, never apologise for your child’s deafness. If you do, it will subconsciously impact their self-esteem. Teach them that it’s nothing to be sorry for, and educating others is the best way forward.
Champion a positive outlook on deafness
Allow deaf children to accept that their deafness is an important part of their identity. Help them learn to become confident, independent and able to overcome barriers, through education, support and interactions with positive role models.
3 key takeaways from this article:
- For any child to thrive, they need love, support, encouragement and opportunity. For deaf children, having positive deaf role models is vital.
- To set your child up for the best start in their education, inform their teachers on simple methods to make their learning experience easier.
- Positive mental health starts from a young age, it’s important to arm your deaf child with the skills and knowledge to accept their deafness and be comfortable discussing their emotions.
This article was written by Christina, who has worked in travel and content for years. She and her family recently left London for a new life by the sea. She’s an energetic storyteller, writer and blogger and has just completed her first upholstery project.