You will encounter many different opinions about the best way for your baby to learn and communicate. As parents, you have the right and responsibility to make decisions for your family.
Before you make a decision, take a deep breath and realize that you are not deciding your baby's entire future.
As you watch your baby succeed and grow, decisions make sense – follow your child's needs. If your child is struggling, decisions might change. The important point is that first decisions are not fixed in stone – knowing that they can be flexible takes some of the worry out of them.
You might say, "We want to decide on a way to give our baby access to people talking and environmental sounds." As you and your audiologist try different means of amplification, you will start to see your baby responding; share those observations with your audiologist.
Or you might say, "We want to decide on a way for our baby to understand us, and for us to understand our baby." As you and your family-infant specialist communicate with your baby, you will be looking for indications that the baby understands and is trying to communicate with you. Perhaps you are signing to your child and you see that your child is trying to sign “MILK” and gets excited each time you sign, “MILK.” Or perhaps you are using spoken language, and your child gets excited when you say, “Daddy’s home!”
Your family-infant specialist will help you watch for responses like this – these can help you with your decisions as you see your child progress!
Use many resources to
gather information and inform your decision.
When you have enough information, both from your family-infant specialist's home visits and your own information gathering, it is time to make a preliminary decision. You are saying to your baby, "We want to communicate with you and give you access to language. We think that these choices might work well for you."
Any decision will take commitment and action on your part. As you consistently use the amplification and communication approach(es) you have chosen, your baby will show you with his progress and preferences which way to go.
Your family-infant specialist will guide you about when you might expect to see developmental changes.
If you do not see progress, or you feel that the results of your first decision are not what you and your family-infant specialist hoped for, then make changes.
Once the hearing aids or cochlear implants are working, your baby may quickly start to use vocal sounds. Or, no matter how much you provide auditory stimulation, your baby may rely on visual communication more than auditory - watching you and the world very carefully, copying visual communication, such as your gestures and facial expressions in addition to your speech. That is just fine. All children will give parents signals about what works well for communicating. We just have to be alert and willing to adapt our expectations and explore different ways of supporting the child’s understanding.
You want to monitor your baby's progress at regular intervals to measure the appropriateness of what you have chosen for your child. There are no "right" or "wrong" decisions. Give your choice a serious effort and be open to modifications to the original plan.
You will know if your baby is excited, frustrated, moving forward steadily, or hitting plateaus in learning. What used to be a perfectly appropriate plan may need to be reconsidered as children grow and develop.
The communication mode that your baby needs at home may need to expand to several approaches after school starts. Many middle school and high school students make changes in their communication strategies to help them meet the challenges of later education.