For children with hearing loss, early identification and intervention are essential to improving their communication and academic outcomes. Thanks to the development and implementation of universal newborn hearing screening, more children than ever before are having their hearing loss identified early. This allows hearing care professionals to provide intervention and support at an earlier stage for improved outcomes.
However, research indicates that early identification and intervention are not the only measures that determine a child’s success in communication and education. Family engagement is one of the greatest predictors of a child’s early success, as well as their development into adulthood. Parents, guardians, and other family members can support a child who is deaf or hard of hearing by:
- Providing a loving and stable environment
- Monitoring the child’s academic progress
- Emphasizing the importance of education
- Arranging study time and space at home
- Facilitating physical fitness or game time
- Coordinating routine health care (including appointments with hearing care specialists)
- Sharing cultural opportunities such as performances, exhibits, and visits to museums and historical sites
- Regulating the child’s diet, clothing, and bedtime
- Monitoring any necessary prescriptions and medications
Family members of children with normal hearing can practice all of the above items as well. Parents, guardians, and family members of children with hearing loss may also:
- Develop awareness of deaf culture
- Acquire and help their child use assistive technology
- Learn communication strategies
- Evaluate and select an educational site specific to their child’s needs
- Understand regulations involved with special education
The above factors are important in giving a deaf or hard-of-hearing child the best possible chance for success. However, studies have found that families of a newly diagnosed child often report a lack of information and emotional support. Hearing care professionals must provide information, help the family find support, and foster and facilitate engagement.
In the early stages of a child’s intervention, a team of hearing health care professionals can provide needed information and support to families. These teams can include audiologists, otolaryngologists, auditory verbal therapists, educational specialists, psychologists, and social workers.
One method that has proven helpful in engaging families is known as motivational interviewing (MI). This process acknowledges the challenges associated with making life changes, such as caring for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. MI focuses on open-ended questions, affirmations, reflective listening, and summarization.
The goal of MI is to help people find the motivation they need to change their behavior. A recent study showed that as few as two MI sessions of 15 minutes were effective in enhancing treatment attendance. Motivational interviewing can be helpful for encouraging families to return for further treatment or consultation after a missed appointment, to be more adherent to the treatment plan, and to stay involved in treatment.
Motivational interviewing can be successful in encouraging disengaged families to become more engaged in their child’s treatment and education. Hearing care providers should also be certain to acknowledge and positively respond to any effort the parents or family is currently making, even if those efforts seem small. Allowing the family to talk first and establishing a rapport with the parents are also important steps in encouraging further engagement.
At our audiology practice, we are dedicated to encouraging family engagement and helping families learn how to best support their deaf or hard-of-hearing child. To learn more about family engagement and how you can support your child, we invite you to contact us today.