Providing Social Skills to Hearing Impaired Children

Children who are deaf or hard of hearing don’t hear all or certain sounds due to an inability to detect these sounds within the ear. They substitute their communication in different ways which may include sign, lip reading, images or text. Some children with a hearing impairment wear hearing aids or have a cochlear implant in order to assist the hearing process. So providing social skills to hearing impaired children sometimes needs to be delivered in more structured ways.

The causes of a hearing impairment or deafness include genetics, diseases, medication, or even a trauma to the ear. Parents of children who are deaf or hearing impaired have a variety of options in regards to their child’s education, depending if the child may have other physical or learning needs. The child may need a residential school, which could be strictly for children with a hearing loss. They could also be in a school which provides special education services by way of a special classroom, or they may be able to attend a mainstream classroom with minimal classroom special education modifications or accommodations required. In any of these scenarios it is important the child’s social skills are being catered for to encourage confidence, self esteem and friendships with their peers.

The social skills of any individual are important to anyone, regardless if they have a disability. It can often be difficult for children with a hearing impairment to develop appropriate social skills due to the lack of oral communication they have. There have been studies that show that students with a hearing loss in general education classrooms tend to experience difficulties in peer relationships and social skills if the class teacher or school is not aware of making alterations. Individuals without social skills may feel a sense of rejection from their peers, so by helping peers understand how to communicate with a friend who has a hearing loss will alleviate half the problem. Ask for a hearing specialist or one of the parents to visit the school and suggest methods of interaction they can use to communicate with. By providing the peers with opportunities to have open discussions and ask questions, it will help them accept and make the effort to include the child with a hearing impairment.

Having proper social skills is critical for succeeding in society and adding quality to a person’s life. It is important to help a child with a hearing loss have access to methods that will aid them in communicating with their mainstream peers. Teaching them to lip read or sign is one thing but to have a conversation with another individual so they can share their thoughts and ideas is also going to be required. The increasing availability of technology has made it so much easier than the old ‘pen & paper’ methods. Text to voice or voice to text apps that are freely available on smart phones have made it easier for children to participate in social conversations. But it is important that these methods are adopted and encouraged in order for a child with a hearing impairment to get the most benefit from them.

Integrating students into general education classrooms is becoming more prevalent in the school setting. But incorporating a social skills program within the classroom is not the only way to help integrate children with a hearing loss. Other situations that can help expose the use of social skills is to consider small group settings based on hobbies or interests. Group speech therapy or small classroom groups where the amount of students is smaller and less overwhelming is also a good way to teach or embed social skills.

There are many different interventions that can help provide social skills to hearing impaired children to gain a better sense of interaction with their peers. Free play with hearing students in the playground, focused social skills groups or groups outside of school are all opportunities for a child with a hearing loss to practise social skills – but all will need initially a structured plan of support by parents and teachers.

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