Decision Making Steps

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.

Decision-Making is a Process

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. 

Decision making process 

Step 1: Think about what needs to be decided. Be specific.  

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!

Step 2: Gather information.

Use many resources to gather information and inform your decision.

  • Think about your baby's needs and look at what professionals and other supportive people (experienced parents, adults who are deaf or hard of hearing, friends, family members) have to say about amplification and communication opportunities relative to those needs.
  • If your baby is hard of hearing, your child is likely to access hearing aids if that is your choice.  If your baby has severe to profound hearing levels, she or he may be a candidate for cochlear implants.  Children with different hearing levels are similar in some ways but may differ in other communication access needs.

Step 3: Make a preliminary 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."

Step 4: Try out what you have decided.

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.           

Step 5: Evaluate your progress.  How is it working? 

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.

  • You may need to add to or shift your communication strategies.
  • Sometimes, you may find that a baby learns best in different ways than you initially expected.

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.

Step 6: Decision modifications.  Will changes in the approach benefit the child?

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.

Follow Your Instincts

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.

  • For example: High school students using spoken language techniques may add captioning or a note taker to enhance understanding in the classroom.
  • A hard of hearing student may meet new signing peers in middle school and may add American Sign Language for social interaction. 
  • A Deaf student might decide to move out of a self-contained program and into a public school for some classes to help prepare for college.
  • You need to make decisions along the way, but none of them are set in stone. As your baby grows and changes, new decisions will help fulfill new needs.