Raising a Child who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing

​​Question: Is raising a deaf or hard of hearing child any different from raising a hearing child?

​Parent Answers:

For us, the biggest difference in raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing (ours is our 11th child!) is that it requires more love and patience on the part of everyone involved. Parents, siblings, and relatives have to get down on the level of this child and put themselves in his shoes and not always expect quick results.Having a child who is deaf or hard of hearing will take more on your part as a parent. More time, more patience, and more work. It will be different from a hearing child. Different isn't bad, it's just different!Each child is unique and has a variety of needs. The demands of extra time could just as easily come from a child with a learning disability, or an extremely bright child. It doesn't in any way change or diminish all of the wonderful experiences of being a parent.Yes, there is a difference. It takes more patience and time to explain things and fill in the missing pieces from the lack of incidental learning from 'overhearing.Somewhat. You have to be more deliberate in your communication.Raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing is different from raising a hearing child. Parents must become informed about the challenges children face in education as well as socially. It is very different! Communication is constantly an effort. If your child is signing, you must always make sure that you have your child's visual attention, and that they get your attention. You are always looking up from what you are doing, always dropping things to get your hands free! For us, every day is a constant challenge.In some ways yes, because of some of the needs that they may have and because you obviously communicate in a different way. But for the most part, I want my hearing child and my deaf child to learn the same things, and behave in certain ways.At first there seemed to be a very big difference, mostly because of communication issues. Once we had established communication with our daughter and could explain things more easily and could understand what she wanted or needed, there were very few differences in how we interacted with our children.Same love, same expectations, same relationship. The only difference is in the language and the need to have your child look at you, and your need to have your hands free if you sign. The biggest difference I have found is that if your child is deaf, everything has to be deliberately taught. Nothing is picked up through osmosis. They do not automatically pick things up from conversations around them, or from the radio or television like our hearing children do. Even though we have good communication in our family, when my daughter was in high school I really started to see how many little incidental things she had not picked up on that we take for granted, because our hearing children do it so naturally. I suddenly found myself feeling very panicky, thinking about all I still had to teach her before she graduated from high school. The things that I realized she had missed out on were not so much the really big important things, but the small things in everyday life that we don't even think about. They were the things that would not necessarily make a difference in her life in the big scheme of things, but things that my hearing child knew, just because he could hear.

Question: Are your expectations for your deaf or hard of hearing child any different from those for your hearing children?​

Parent Answers: 

The interesting thing about expectations is that they change. They change for all of us as we grow, find new interests, and meet new people. It is often said that parent's expectations and dreams for a child change once they discover that the child has a hearing loss. This may be true, but don't our expectations for our hearing children often change as well once we begin to see the child's personality take shape and discover who they really are as they grow? It is the same with our children who have a hearing loss. No one can predict when a child is very young what kind of person they will become, or what they will do with their life as an adult. Many of the dreams and expectations we have for any of our children may not be realistic for that particular child. Even if they are, our children may have no interest whatsoever in becoming who we envision them to be. It is up to each of us to choose our own path as we approach adulthood, and more often than not, the expectations and dreams that parents have for a child are far different from what the child may choose. When speaking of expectations, we need to focus on helping the child reach their fullest potential. This is what is really important.Maybe a little. Speaking of the school age years, grade-wise and school performance-wise, we expected excellence to the best of their abilities. Realistically we understood that in some areas, such as standardized tests, there might be a lower performance. Behavior-wise, no difference.No. Whether hearing or not, I expect my children to do their best in school, treat others with respect, and become useful individuals in society. Kids live up to your expectations.I have always had the belief that aside from the obvious, like being a receptionist or dealing with telephone conversations, my daughter who is deaf will be able to achieve as much as my hearing son or any other hearing child, and that she will be a successful adult. The reality is that it will always be more difficult for her to achieve what she wants to or needs to do in school, or in the work place. I make allowances for that which she has not quickly understood. I also make allowances for the communication issue, but I seldom think of her as being any different from the other children. When I think of her, I think of her growing up and doing things just the way I did or any one else would. She is my daughter, and she is a person with a future. She just happens to have a hearing loss.No, my kids are both bright, social children, and I see no reason to have different expectations.