By Guest Blogger Suzi Blair
I am a former school teacher who has two hearing impaired children. My oldest child was identified at 21 months and my youngest at birth. They both wear bilateral hearing aids. My children received services from the state until the age of three and after that, the school system was then responsible for their special education. They were pulled out of regular classes for speech and language until third grade. Even now, my daughter is receiving accommodations for the SAT as a junior in high school.
I have learned a great deal on our journey and wanted to share tips with other moms. I hope these tips help and also give you support!
1- Allow yourself to grieve. We all want our kids to be “normal.” We are sad when we discover that they are going to have to face greater challenges than what we had “planned.”
2- Learn to appreciate the uniqueness and possibly even benefits of the disability. My kids can sleep through almost anything and my daughter is a great lip reader! It may be something small, but try to find humor and gratitude when possible. When my daughter became a teenager she replaced ” huh” with “Come again, what you say?”
3- Be your child’s advocate. Do your own research and find out what resources are available. I was not told I could have home visits instead of having to travel. I also didn’t know I could get services brought into my home until children are the age of three. I had to ask. Many accommodations were not volunteered.
4- Ask questions. Sometimes professionals take for granted that we know their jargon. They tend to use a lot of acronyms (IEP, FSEP…). Don’t be intimidated. Remember that you are the parent and you know your child. Set realistic goals that they can accomplish.
5- Be gracious and encouraging to those who are helping your child. Teachers have to work harder to accommodate our kids needs. It’s easier for them when they know it is appreciated. Compliments go a long way, but cards and thoughtful gifts (they don’t have to be expensive) go even farther.
6- Don’t be afraid to talk about your child’s handicap with other people, especially children. When I would notice strangers whispering or children pointing I would see an opportunity for education. I also believe that it taught my kids to not be embarrassed about their hearing aids.
7- Seek out other parents with children like yours. Join a support group. Find adults that have been successful with the same handicaps. I learned so much from others. We learned about current technology and even some sign language. We also became part of a community and developed more hope for the future.
Please understand that I have used the words disability and handicap only because of the lack of a better one, but there are so many more … special, unique, amazing, gifted, and chosen. We grow and bond with our children on this journey.