In this post: Fathers Parenting a Child with Hearing Loss, Remaining Vigilant for Today’s Children with Hearing Loss, and 60 Minute Session How to Be Effective.
Fathers: Parenting a Child with Hearing Loss
K. Todd Houston, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, The University of Akron, Akron, OH
CLICK HERE for presentation handouts.
Much of the research on parents in relation to children’s language development focuses on the mother — how does maternal education, bonding, speech patterns,etc. influence how children learn to listen and talk. While all of this research is very important, fathers’ roles are often ignored. Fathers may be seen as the secondary, peripheral, or imaginary parent. If they are studied at all, most research on fathers focuses on those who are not doing their jobs — the so-called “deadbeat dads.” We know that there is a strong positive correlation between fathers’ involvement and child language outcomes. Fathers also play a different role than mothers in helping their children learn to solve problems, manage stress, and gain confidence in themselves. We also know that fathers experience strong emotions related to their child’s hearing loss, though they may not always show it. Interestingly, in interviews with parents of children newly identified with hearing loss, fathers often say, “I have to hold it together for my wife,” while mothers report wishing that their partner would open up to them more about their feelings. Clearly, there is a real need for counseling all members of the family at the intitial diagnosis, as well as at each step along the way of the hearing loss journey throughout life.
Fathers are important members of the Auditory Verbal team, so K. Todd Houston and his team conducted a survey to gather opinions from fathers of children with hearing loss on their participation in therapy, feelings about parenting a child with hearing loss, and suggestions for professionals for working with dads. They gathered responses from dads across the United States and found that overall, fathers did feel included in the initial diagnosis and felt that their feelings were considered by the audiologist delivering the news. Fathers felt that they received adequate information about communication options and technologies, and were well included in intervention services.
The men surveyed suggested the following ways that professionals could help fathers be more included:
Use technology like phone consultations, emails, blogs, and videotaped sessions to help keep fathers informed even if they cannot be physically present at the appointment.
Teach fathers what is to be expected — dads are problem solvers and often seek direction for tasks that they can do with their child at home.
Have a flexible schedule — offer before and after work hours or weekend appointments.
Give fathers permission to ask questions and seek more help.
Compose a list of important appointment dates for the father and offer summaries of the appointments.
Don’t make assumptions about the father’s role — just because he’s not at the appointment doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care or isn’t involved.
Be proactive about including fathers — look at them when you speak, ask for their input, maybe even schedule father-only sessions.
Though this study is limited by its relatively homogenous sample group (mostly Caucasian middle to upper-middle class fathers), it provides important insight into the crucial role that fathers play in the development of their children with hearing loss, and how we as professionals can support them in being the best that they can be.
I am glad to work with so many great fathers in my teletherapy practice. Thanks to teletherapy, I am able to offer appointments on the family’s schedule, record sessions for family members who are not able to attend, or even videoconference dads into the session while they are at work!
Remaining Vigilant for Today’s Children with Hearing Loss
Teresa Caraway, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, Learning Innovation Associates, LLC, Oklahoma City, OK
Carol Flexer, Ph.D., LSLS Cert. AVT, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Audiology at The University of Akron
CLICK HERE for presentation handouts.
Today’s children with hearing loss are succeeding in ways that would have been unthinkable in decades past. With newborn hearing screening, high-powered digital hearing aids and cochlear implants, and early intervention in listening and spoken language, many are finished with therapy before they begin kindergarten. It is truly a fabulous time to be born with a hearing loss — the opportunities are endless. This new group of listening, talking deaf children are succeeding beyond our wildest dreams, and we as professionals must adjust our service models to accomodate them. When a child is finished with therapy so early, how do we continue to monitor their progress to insure that they do not lose the momentum of their early success as they continue on in school and in life?
Caraway and Flexer noted that today’s children with hearing loss do not fit the traditional failure-based model of special education (“you have to fail to get in special education servies, and you have to keep failing to keep getting that support). Instead of a failure-based model, they needa maintenance- and prevention-based model to help them sustain their early success. The presenters discussed two case studies of high performing children with hearing loss in the mainstream, and offered suggestions of how to best assess their continued needs in the classroom. While these children had excellent speech, language, and listening abilities (scoring at or above the level of their hearing peers on standardized assessments), Caraway and Flexer helped to identify some gaps in their skills still in need of support. To identify problem areas, they used:
LENA analysis — recordings of the child’s auditory environment, including background noise, child-directed conversation, child converational turns, electronic noise, etc.
CHILD – the Children’s Home Inventory for Listening Difficulties – parents rate their children and children rate themselves on listening difficulties in a variety of situations. Do the children’s answers match up with those of their parents?
SIFTER – Screening Instrument for Targeting Educational Risk (preschool, primary, and secondary versions available in the linked document) — how do the child’s academic, attention, communication, class participation, and social behavior skills compare to hearing peers?
Minnesota Social Skills Checklist for Students Who Are Deaf/Hard of Hearing – addresses areas of self-concept/self-esteem, friendship, social interaction, and pragmatics.
Common Core Standards — selected skills that are vulnerable for children with hearing loss.
Based on traditional speech, language, and listening standardized tests alone, these children appeared to be doing well — very well, in fact. They held their own in mainstream classrooms, and seemed to be achieving everything we hope for our Auditory Verbal graduates. But the assessments above help us to dig deeper, to really get at the depth of skill needed to function fully in a listening, speaking world. After conducting these assessments on the children in the case studies, Caraway and Flexer identified areas in need of some additional support. Interestingly, they also found that, based on the LENA analysis, many families became less vigilant about providing a great acoustic environment for their children in the home and did not continue giving the children all of the enriched language opportunities they did while still enrolled in Auditory Verbal Therapy. As Dr. Flexer reminded us, students may report that they, “Hear everything,” but the truth is — you hear everything that you hear and you don’t know what you didn’t hear because you didn’t hear it! “Doing fine” is not the same as having excellent acoustic access to all content at all times.
As professionals, we must encourage our graduates’ families to keep up the good work, and should use a consultative model to continue to track their progress over the years. We must continue to ensure that children with hearing loss in the mainstream have optimal listening access in the classroom, and that they are doing well socially as well as academically. So much is possible for children with hearing loss, but it is only with constant vigilance that we can truly ensure that they reach their goals.
60 Minute Session: How to be Effective
Betsy Moog Brooks, M.S., CED, LSLS Cert. AVEd, The Moog Center for Deaf Education, St. Louis, Mo.
Sixty minutes once a week is a drop in the bucket in the life of a child and a family. How can professionals in early intervention make the most of this time to have the greatest impact on a child and a family? Brooks shared many suggestions for planning and implementing effective sixty minute sessions, including:
Have a lesson plan and start and end on time!
Give parents expectations about what will happen during the session, what is expected of them, and how they can participate.
Sometimes parents do not participate because they simply don’t know how. Guide and coach them in the best ways to interact with their child.
Incorporate conditioned play into your sessions to prepare children for audiology appointments. This will help them give more accurate results in the testing booth so that the audiologist can adjust their equipment appropriately.
Brooks also made some great points about asking specific questions to elicit information from parents. For example, instead of asking, “Does he wear his hearing aids all waking hours?” (because the answer will almost always be yes… or no… but either way, this doesn’t tell you much), say “About what time does he put his hearing aids on in the morning?” to more accurately gauge the child’s technology use. “First thing in the morning” means different things to different families (7AM? 11AM? A few hours after he wakes up?), so by asking specific questions professionals can get to the root of the issue and avoid misunderstanding. Brooks also emphasized that the parents’ perceptions ARE their truth. They know their child better than anyone. While we as professionals might not feel that what the parents are saying is accurate, we must respect that this is their perception and dig deeper to understand why they think and feel that way, and work together to reach an understanding that will help parent and professional work together as a team for the benefit of the child.