When a child is born deaf or hard of hearing, parents find themselves in unfamiliar territory and are often upset and bewildered by the turn their lives has taken. Often they are not sure how to raise a child whose needs are so different to their own.
Today we are lucky to have the internet to help research information, find resources, share support and to make these parents feel less alone, but what educational resources are available in Australia to help and educate hearing parents in how to raise their Deaf children?
First of all, about 95 % Deaf and hard of hearing children are raised by hearing parents. Some parents chose to use speech to communicate with their children, whilst others choose Sign language, or Auslan.
Some Deaf and hard of hearing children lag behind their hearing peers
Educators from Early Intervention Services try to train parents in how to play and communicate well with their children. They may provide different communication methods and child centre play approaches which help accelerate a Deaf child's language and social skills, enabling them to get ahead in line with their hearing peers.
Deaf children usually need visual approaches to learning that include books with pictures and flash cards to help them to absorb words or signs more effectively.
Unfortunately, there are some instances of Deaf children lagging behind the education standards of hearing peers and it is important to remember that teaching Deaf children is an ongoing commitment until they reach adulthood.
As a result, it is important to have access to up to date resources. To this end, there are several paperback educational resources I've came across recently that are well worth mentioning.
Some helpful paperback and DVD resources
Dictionary of Auslan
This dictionary has 3,000 signs that are shown by using photos with arrows and descriptions to depict correct movement. This book is for hearing people who don't know Auslan and can help parents learn how to sign with their Deaf children.
Australian Baby Hands by Jackie Durnin
This book covers interesting topics surrounding baby sign language, from the early stages of development through to research, findings and how to introduce baby sign language at home. This book is for anyone who is interested in teaching their newborns, Deaf or hearing, the basic elements of sign language so as to to reduce any communication frustrations. The book has about 60 photos of the author showing each basic sign.
A brand new resource launched only last November 2012, Communi-Cate is aimed at the hearing parents of Deaf or hearing impaired toddlers and early primary aged children. The aim of this book is to share everyday stories and learn to communicate in Auslan.
The resource contains a book with several characters, including Deaf Cate, who is the main character. It has stories with pictures that show sign language for everyday topics like the daily routine of family life, including taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading a book and going to bed. It also comes with a packet of cards, flashcards, 50 stories scenes and a DVD.
The Safe Program – Personal safety skills for Deaf children
The Safe Program is an online resource that uses both Auslan and captioning to educate on the topic of personal safety. With all the scenarios portrayed in pictures, role plays and quizzes, it is aimed at teachers or mental health professionals to assist in initiating conversations with individuals or in a classroom setting.
The online program has many topics covering puberty, sex education, contraception, religion, different cultures, feelings, sexuality orientation, cyber- bullying and relationships. There are also other topics suitable for younger children, including road safety, house safety and dealing with friendships. Schools can subscribe to the program via the internet for a yearly fee.
Making a commitment of 100%
Overall, if parents and educators want to see their children or students to excel in life, they need to invest in a 100 % commitment to working on their language, social and education skills. Some parents may be able to go it alone and find enough information via the internet. When it comes down to it, nothing really beats getting together with other hearing or Deaf parents with hearing of Deaf children, and learning new ways from each other in a fun and nurturing environment