Encouraging Siblings to Communicate

How do you encourage siblings to communicate with their brother or sister who is deaf or hard of hearing?

Answers From Parents Using Spoken Language:

We encouraged them from the very beginning. We modeled communication skills we learned in parent/infant sessions. And we emphasized that they talk to her, even when it was easier and faster to communicate through a parent. Our hearing child picked up on many of the communication techniques as he grew up with his older brother, who is hard of hearing. When we saw him communicate in an ineffective way, we tried to correct him and asked him to repeat what he wanted to communicate using effective techniques. Our hearing daughter practices listening games with her little sister. She wants her sister to succeed and she pitches in to help. At times big sister seems like a mini speech therapist! It is encouraging to their relationship deepen. They are best of friends. His big brother enjoys reading to him. We have shared strategies for book reading, and he has learned to talk about the pictures our younger son points to or names. It is a special time for them. After the little one is in bed, we make sure big brother gets some individual book time with us.

Answers From Parents Using Sign Language:

When my daughter's hearing loss was diagnosed we explained the situation to her older sisters and talked about how we would need to communicate with her. We taught them signs and helped them along with new vocabulary as needed. It was a fun thing for them and they learned quickly. Our child needs sign language for communication, so when our hearing son was born we began signing and talking to him simultaneously. I think because it was something he was exposed to from birth, it became as natural for him to sign as it was to speak. He signed his first words at the age of 9 months (no, more, please). In fact, he signed before he spoke. Today, as a young adult, he is a fluent signer, and for the most part it has never been an issue with him. Our son has multiple disabilities. We do the alphabet and colors with our hearing daughter, and we mainly encourage her to touch and play with her brother, and try not to overemphasize how fragile he is so that she is comfortable with him. When my hearing son was about 8 years old he came to me and said he was tired of signing. I explained to him that sometimes I got tired of it too, and that I knew that it could be difficult, but that in our family it just wasn't an option not to sign. I told him that he could learn to sign, but that his sister could not learn to hear. He seemed surprised to hear me say that I also got tired of signing sometimes, and once I had sympathized with him a little bit, it was never an issue that came up again. We held sign classes for neighborhood children in the summer, and my son helped teach the classes. He distributed fliers, handed out lessons, and helped serve as a sign model. In this situation, he was the expert, and it made him feel very proud and important to be able to sign. After the first summer, he took it upon himself to teach the other children in the neighborhood to sign, and I have some very precious videotapes of him sitting on his chair in the driveway surrounded by a number of enthusiastic students.

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