Deaf children face a rare language difficulty. Because much of the communication in our society is done verbally and deaf children have limited access to that type of communication, they may suffer from certain language delays. If not treated early, these delays can lead to long-term language difficulties.
In order to order to prevent long-term effects of language delays in deaf children, they must be diagnosed early. If your child has a high fever or other potentially damaging illness within the first few months of his life or if congenital deafness runs in your family, pay particular attention to your child. If he does not react to loud noises, turn around if you call him from behind or otherwise interact with sounds, ask your pediatrician for an auditory assessment.
Without intervention, deaf children can fall behind in proper language development. They miss the opportunity to hear their parents and guardians talk with them and don’t get the verbal cues and feedback most children get. They don’t learn to practice the sounds and words of their native tongue. They don’t have the chance to listen to conversations, with all the semantics and constructs of the social norm. They may end up with poor vocabulary and grammar, lacking production skills, poor reading abilities and improper communication skills. Because language is the basis through which we learn, they can also fall behind in other academic areas.
American Sign Language can give your child a manual language through which to learn communication and on which to gain other academic skills. Sometimes parents opt for oral intervention, which teaches children to read lips and vocalize their wishes. Some also choose a spoken signed language or other combined option that utilizes both spoken English and manual communication. Hearing aids or cochlear implants may also be necessary.
While your native tongue comes naturally to you, you may need to educate yourself on the intervention you choose for your child. The sooner you can learn about the language or mode of communication you choose. Local community colleges offer sign language classes. Deaf schools may have oral training and your hospital may offer a variety of services.
Whichever mode of intervention you choose, you will be most successful if you remain consistent. Meet with other families in your area who use this method and teach family members as well. The more normal and accessible you can make the communication for your child, the more successful he will be.