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Brothers and sisters and communication

If your deaf child has brothers and sisters, it is important that they can communicate. Communication will allow them to understand each other, solve differences and express emotions. Brother and sister at beach

Young children are constantly learning about language and communication and usually find it easier than adults to pick up new ways of communicating. If you involve your other children in the things you do with your deaf child, you can help everyone to feel that they are a full part of the family.

"We encouraged [his brother and sister] from the beginning. We showed them the communication skills we used with him. And we made sure that they talked to him, even when it was easier and faster to communicate through one of us."

"When my daughter's hearing loss was first diagnosed we explained the situation to her older brother and talked about how he would need to communicate with her. We taught him signs and gave him new vocabulary when he needed it. He loved it! It was fun and he learned really quickly."

The extra work of communicating with a deaf child can mean that their hearing brothers and sisters are given more responsibility than deaf children at home. Some parents of deaf children say that, because it can be harder to explain tasks to a deaf child, they are hearing brothers and sisters to do tasks more often. This can be difficult for a young child to understand.

"I'm sure I've treated them differently at times. It's much easier to get the attention of my hearing daughter. It takes more time and energy to go to my deaf son and explain what needs to be done. When I'm in a hurry or tired, I will automatically call my daughter to help. I'm sure if you ask her, she will say that she has more responsibility than he does. I'm more aware of doing this now, and try to be careful not to do it."

Having a deaf brother or sister can be a positive experience for a child. It can allow them to have a positive attitude towards people's differences. It can also give them a deeper understanding of good communication.

"I know for a fact that [my hearing child] shows much more tolerance and acceptance of people with a disability, and people who are different in any way, than most of his friends. He knows that his sister is just like anyone else, but is seen as different by people who don't understand deafness."

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Information provided by the National Deaf Children's Society. Reproduced with permission.
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08-Nov-2015 3:31 PM (AEST)