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How to teach children with hearing difficulties

Children who have any disability can require additional time and energy.

Children with hearing loss are no exception. They are not any different than other children, except for requiring more communication skills. They have difficulty hearing the speaker and often are speech-delayed. They are otherwise as intelligent as their peers.

They often watch peers, parents, friends and others for cues to assist with their communication difficulties or delays. Research has determined by age 4 the number of words they have learned is related to the number of words they have heard. If they are listening to others around them use the same vocabulary (including slang or foul language) that is what all children repeat.

So talking helps all children to be better communicators. Yes, I stress to talk and then listen to what they are saying or not saying. This will provide big cues on their language and surroundings. Here are some tips to assist children with hearing impairments.

1. Read every day to your young child. Kids learn to read from listening or hearing the sounds you read. Kids who have a hearing loss often have difficulties with reading and writing. You need to hear the sounds of the words before you can read them. Reading is more auditory than visual.

2. Sing daily. It is not required that you be a "good" singer. Your child learns to recognize tone, intonation, timing, rhythm and melody from songs.

3. Play rhyming games. This helps with phonics and timing of speech cues. It can be an engaging activity for the whole family.

4. Tell jokes. Even "knock knock" jokes teach young kids humor and timing of speech.

5. Play games such as the alphabet game utilizing sounds. Tell me something that begins with the sound "b" = bat or "a" = apple. The sounds they are not hearing provide cues on the missing sounds.

6. Point out words. They are written everywhere in our world. Labels, boxes, packages, signs, and symbols are all associated with sounds. If the child is not old enough to read, help them sound out the words.

7. Turn off background sounds. This includes, but is not limited to, the television, dishwasher, washing machine, radio, computer streaming, or any noise that may interfere with one on one communication.

8. Play the parrot or repeat game. I say potato and you say potato.

9. Many devices, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, can be decorated and made fun to wear. Ask the audiologist or speech language pathologist if they can provide stickers, glitter or other fun decorating tools provided from the manufacturer of the device.

10. Talk through activities you are performing such as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Talk through the steps of how you are making the sandwich. This teaches them sequencing as well. Example: I take a slice of bread and use my knife to spread peanut butter on it, then jelly ... Then have the child tell you the sequence of what comes next.

Remember to talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen. Talking to your child, not yelling or screaming, helps them hear what you have to say. Listening to them helps you understand what they are hearing you say. Children with hearing loss learn them same way as their peers: from listening and talking.

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