Supporting Speech and Hearing Impairments
What are speech and hearing impairments?
Impairments refer to a difference of function within someone’s body. This can include reduced hearing and difficulty speaking. Impairments are slightly different than disabilities, because disabilities refer to an inability to do something, such as walk.
In the U.S., about 2-3 out of every 1,000 children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss. There is also an 8-9% chance of children ages 3-17 showing signs of a speech disorder at some point in their development.
Ways to support children with speech and/or hearing impairments
A child with speech and/or hearing impairments has the same capabilities as a child without these impairments.
If you sense your child may have an impairment, a neurologist is the best first step to identify the level and nature. This type of evaluation can lead to professional recommendations of ways to support your child’s disability from a medical standpoint.
When it comes to building communication skills, there are a number of ways to support your child as they navigate this journey with an impairment.
For children with speech impairments, reading out loud to them slowly is helpful, as it allows them to hear words aloud. Taking time to ask your child to identify things can also help them when it comes to forming words and sharing their thoughts regarding what they are seeing. Music and singing is also an excellent way to allow your child to exercise their voice in a way that doesn’t necessarily require complete language.
For children with hearing impairments, pictures and text are a great way for them to practice visual learning. Facing your child when you speak is also important, as they can begin learning how to read lips and identify words as you form them.
For children with both impairments, sign language is also an excellent resource. Not only will they be learning a new language, but it can make communication easier for them.
No matter what the impairment, it is important to recognize and celebrate differences with your child. An impairment does not define them. Your child has a variety of interests and capabilities outside of their impairment, and uplifting them by reminding them of this can lead to acceptance within themselves and their communities!
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