All children deserve language. Almost 90% of children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) are born to hearing parents. Instantly, parents are faced with making a decision on how their child learns to communicate. There are options, such as learning sign language, learning to listen and talk, or a combination of both.
With American Sign Language, parents have to learn to sign and be able to expose their child to the language daily. If using oral or spoken language, a child must have access to sound through hearing aids or cochlear implants during all waking hours. Either way, there is a need for therapy, language lessons, and activities being explicitly taught to children who are unable to learn language in the same way that typically hearing children do.
A child who cannot hear, cannot learn language by overhearing sounds and words in their environment. Children who are DHH must be explicitly taught language by a trained professional, or a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) specializing in the mode of communication for that child (sign language or spoken language). The best time to learn language is from birth to 5 years of age. It is imperative to children’s education and social success to give children access to quality services necessary for acquiring language. Families also benefit from regular services for support in helping them learn how to best communicate with their child.
Hawai’i has the highest prevalence rate of children born with a hearing loss, more than any other state. The numbers in 2013 showed 3 out of 1000 children are born with a hearing loss. Only 65% of those are receiving early intervention services. The lack of services creates a large gap for students who are DHH to keep up with their typically hearing peers in reading, language, and academics.
For resources and more information, families can contact Christy Chadwick, Teacher of the Deaf at firstname.lastname@example.org. She can answer questions, provide language lessons, ideas for communicating with your child, and options for academic learning.
There are also communities on Facebook, such as Hawaii Hears, Hawaii Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids, and Listening and Spoken Language Group. Maui Deaf Friends has great resources for learning sign language and getting involved with the deaf community, while Hawaii parents are working to create an AG Bell Chapter as well as a chapter for Hands and Voices.