What is the best communication option for your Deaf/HOH child?
This is a question many parents struggle with for many years when raising Deaf/HOH children. The vast majority of parents raising Deaf/HOH children are hearing themselves and have never had any exposure to the Deaf Community or American Sign Language. In fact, 95% of Deaf/HOH children are born to hearing parents, leaving the remaining 5% of Deaf/HOH children being raised by Deaf parents.
Since communication options can take years to implement and develop, the actual observed or measurable success level any given child can obtain in a specific communication mode will also be delayed. Each child is uniquely different in personality and drive, as is their own unique form of deafness. Coupled together, these factors greatly impact the individual Deaf/HOH child's success in performance-driven options of communication--those options which set required levels of measurable mastery, i.e., a Deaf/HOH child's ability to verbally produce the accurate sound for a word for a speech/language therapist when that Deaf/HOH child cannot hear it for her self. Language learning is not performance-driven but a natural occurrence and should be the primary focus for all Deaf/HOH children, no matter their age. The natural language of a Deaf/HOH child is manual or visual/gestural; sign language.
The ability a Deaf/HOH child has to communicate with others, which requires receiving and understanding a message given and then responding appropriately, is directly related to their emotional and social well-being. If communication breaks down on any level, the emotional and social development of a child will also break down. This is just one reason why the vast majority of Deaf/HOH children, born to hearing parents, are developmentally behind socially and emotionally.
Some "success" stories can be found within each communication option. Please remember that the definition of "success" is a very diverse one, i.e., in speech therapy, one therapist might tell a Deaf/HOH child they are successful just for trying their best whether they have produced the desired sound accurately or not. Cochlear Implants are labeled successful when they produce sound in the cochlea, not when a person can hear that sound understand it, and respond appropriately, whereby providing clear communication.
When American Sign Language(ASL) is the 1st language for Deaf/HOH children, if certain levels of successes are not achieved in other communication options, the child always has a strong foundation of language to fall back on. No other communication option--besides ASL--provides this level of success and security for the Deaf/HOH child.
Signs for Hope believes ASL is paramount for achieving the greatest success of all Deaf/HOH children no matter what their final mode of communication becomes.
Learning not only about the communication options that are available, but also hearing stories of how these options have impacted the lives of Deaf/HOH children as they mature into adulthood is vital.
Beginnings: For Parents of Children Who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, Inc.
Communication Considerations A - Z
Deafness: Choices in Communication
Language and Communication Options in Deaf Education
Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
Center for Disease Control - Several free downloadable materials are available on this website specifically relating to "Communication Options for Deaf/HOH Children".
National Association of the Deaf
Raising and Educating a Deaf Child
The Most Controversial Communication Option: The Cochlear Implant
The FDA's Benefits & Risks of the Cochlear Implant
The ASL-Cochlear Implant Community
Sweet Nothings in My Ear
Cochlear Implants and Hearing Aids
Signs for Hope blog post: How Will They Hear?