Advocating Self Advocacy

 

 

Parents having children with hearing impairment are extra cautious around them. The need to be around their children and ensure that no harm comes to them is but natural. However an important fact to keep in mind is that children with any kind of impairment need to be taught to lead normal lives. The fundamental reason behind going for hearing aids or cochlear implants is to enable such children to live fairly independent, normal and regular lives.

This fundamental reasoning is lost if the parents are forever hovering around the child and helping them do basic things. The child needs space to grow and to handle situations by himself. This is possible only if we teach them self advocacy right from the beginning.

What is self advocacy? Self advocacy literally means ‘the action of representing oneself or one’s views or interests.’ Being able to do things independently will give your child a sense of purpose and worthiness.

Self advocacy helps them gain awareness of personal preferences, likes, dislikes, strengths, interests, potential and limitations. It helps them differentiate between wants and needs. It helps them make choices and consider multiple options after calculating the consequences of their actions.

The following points will help you understand the importance of self advocacy and how it will help your child gain confidence to face any situation head on.

Teach them the basics:

Children can be taught the basic workings of their hearing aids or Cochlear Implants and should also be able to recognise when the battery runs out or gets disconnected. Children going to play school (age 2.5yrs-3yrs) can be taught to inform if their device is not working. This differentiation will help them reach out and report to adults as soon as they sense something wrong.

Start Early:

There is no such thing as ‘too early’. Start developing self-advocacy skills in your child as early as possible.

As they grow older children (age 4yrs to 5yrs) should be taught to be more expressive if they fail to hear or understand something. They should be able to judge the distance required to hear better. They should be able to clearly communicate that they require the speaker to talk softer, louder or slowly. Teach them to ask for repetitions if they have not understood something.

Being vocal will help them develop their vocabulary as well. The more words they use, the more they learn pronunciation, sounds, vocabulary and language.

Communicate:

In a new environment, the child must have the confidence to walk up to an adult and inform them about his or her needs.

They should be able to explain to the teacher and find the right spot to sit in class. A shy child might find it difficult to do so, but make them understand that they need to speak up for themselves if they have to learn in class.

Most importantly the child should be made to understand that the hearing aid or Cochlear Implant is meant to help them function like regular children and should not be taken as a mark or symbol of any disability. It is their friend and should be treated as one.

Seeking Help:

If communication is important, then asking for help is equally important. The child should be made to understand that asking for help is not wrong. Asking for help will not lead to them being mocked or laughed at. They can confide in friends and ask them for notes or updates if they miss out on hearing the instructions or lectures in class. This confiding will strengthen their bonds with these friends and will make for a wonderful foundation to a long lasting friendship too.

Mental Preparation:

In a comfortable, known environment with help from family and friends the child will be able to function normally. However, how will the child cope in a new environment without a known person to help or support? Prepare your child for such unaccounted or unplanned situations. What if the child gets separated from the parents in a mall? What if the child has to go to another school for a project or a submission? How will the child deal with such situations if he is not made aware of them in the first place? Mentally prepare your child to face such challenges. Teach him to approach people and ask for help without feeling insecure. Teach him to be confident and importantly encourage him to go out and experience the world first hand by himself.

Maintenance:

Teach your child to keep the hearing aid or Cochlear Implant in a safe place or in the Dehumidifier when they are not wearing it. They should be taught to automatically include ‘wearing of device’ into their morning rituals once they wake up. It should be as natural as brushing teeth.

Final word:

Do understand that children with hearing impairment are like normal children but hear differently. They need to lead normal lives and enjoy all the things that regular children do. They only need a little help in hearing and that is possible with the collective cooperation and support of everyone the child comes across.

Hearing should not be a privilege, it should be a right.

Ritu Nakra

LSLS Cert.AVT

Advertisements

Tips to involve siblings in teaching of your hearing impaired child to create a healthy and happy environment…..

 

1          Talk about the hearing loss, its implications, amplification devices, care for the devices with your children. There is nothing to hide. You should handle your child’s device with a pride and not with guilt. This reflects on your child and gives him strength to face any situation in public. Let your children understand the handling of device. You need to trust them and be patient with them.

2          It is important to promote communication between the siblings. We often feel that our hearing impaired child will not be able to make our hearing child understand his / her needs and hence we come in-between them as translators. Give them a chance and encourage their communication. They always find their own ways to do so which may even lead to special surprises for you.

3          We need to acknowledge and praise positive and collaborative behaviors. Whenever they are playing together build a positive environment around them where each one gets his own space and praise. Siblings have a fun relationship. Kids learn more while playing, as at that time they are not being taught. Their willingness to learn is enhanced.

4          We need to try to understand the feelings behind a certain act. When siblings complaint, don’t jump into conclusions. It is important to explore the reason behind that complaint. Usually our hearing impaired children get advantage in these situations. But we need to do a fair justice.

5          It is extremely important to schedule time alone with your hearing child. We often get so involved in the care of our hearing impaired child that we forget the needs of our hearing child.  Sometimes you can go alone with your hearing child to make him / her feel special too.

6          Modeling is an important tool for teaching, not just for hearing impaired children but for all kids. This tool can be used most effectively when we involve siblings in our lesson plans.

7          The world doesn’t operate as planned but we adults have a tendency to plan and stick to our plans. Unplanned surprise angles give an added edge and provide a more realistic learning than any planned lesson. Siblings can provide that variety and break the monotony of learning.

8          Speed is as important as the lesson itself. Siblings build a healthy sense of competition which raises the learning curve exponentially. Create fairly competitive games around your lesson plans and you’ll be amazed at the speed at which your child picks up.

                        To conclude, I would like to assert not to consider siblings as a hindrance to their learning but a much welcome support provided by God himself. Those who don’t have siblings need not lose heart. The same can be simulated by inviting their friends over and involving them in your lesson plans.

Ritu Nakra

LSLS Cert.AVT

Acknowledgement

Nirmit Goel mother of Prisha Goel