Your child's hearing
Finding out your deaf child has additional needs
Source: National Deaf Children's Society
For some children it will be clear from birth, or within the first months, that there are special needs (for example, when a child has Down syndrome). For others, the deafness may be identified very early in life and then, as the child grows up, some aspects of their development may be slower than expected. For other children, difficulties and differences may be noticed by their parents or their General Practitioner (GP) as part of routine assessments. In some cases, extra needs may not be spotted until the child is a little older (for example, eyesight problems) or at school (for example, dyslexia or a specific language disorder). In some cases, illness (such as meningitis) or accidents may cause deafness and other difficulties.
Assessing a child’s deafness can be hard if the child has several extra needs. The test equipment uses information collected from children at the stage of development that is usual for their age. So the results may be misleading for certain disabilities. A range of hearing tests may need to be carried out to get the full picture. Testing for hearing loss under anaesthetic may sometimes be helpful for families whose child cannot reliably perform behavioural hearing tests.
It can be much harder for a professional to assess a child who is deaf and has other disabilities. For example, the deafness may make it hard to identify a language disorder and a delay in speaking or signing may be due to deafness, a general delay in development or physical disability.
Assessments may be carried out by a number of professionals. Ideally, they should be part of a team which is responsible for assessing your child’s needs, identifying any areas of concern, and planning how these needs can best be met.
A range of professionals may be involved in the assessment of your child.
You should be asked to give permission before your child is assessed. If at all possible, you should be present or close by when your child is assessed. Parents play an important role in any assessment. They understand many things about their child that can be useful for professionals to take into account. Your input during the assessment can be valuable.
The following examples from parents and the professional’s response show how parents’ comments have helped during an assessment.
Parent - “Sam always bangs his hands when he wants a drink or snack”
Professional’s response - “Sam can communicate his needs so a simple picture systems could help him learn to make choices. A digital camera would be very useful to help make a picture diary of things that are important to Sam.”
Parent – “Helen screams when the phone rings. She gets really upset and bad tempered.”
Professional’s response - “Helen may be very sensitive to loud noises and needs this to be taken into account if she has hearing aids.”
The professional carrying out the assessment should discuss the results with you. If you do not understand anything, then ask the professional to explain things to you again or in a different way. You should be sent a written report about the assessment and the results when the report is completed. Keep all these reports together so that you can find them easily if needed.
The label may do the following:
If you are not happy with the diagnosis or ‘label’ your child has been given, do not be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
Once your child has been diagnosed with a specific need or condition, you should receive advice and information to help you understand your child’s needs. Learn as much as possible about your child’s condition, possible treatment and management options and the support services available for your child and family. Information is empowering and will give you a sense of confidence and help you to cope and make informed decisions.
Knowing about your child’s eyesight tells you the following:
The specific services which are available to you may depend on where you live or the eligibility criteria for a particular service. There may be a waiting list for the service you need. Services make decisions on the information you give them, so never understate your situation. Tell them how it really is.
Families with children with additional needs often find it helpful to have a regular paediatrician. Paediatricians specialise in child health and understand the nature and causes of disability in children and can offer advice about local services for your child. It is also a good idea to find a good General Practitioner (GP). Your GP can be a great support and coordinator for your child’s needs if you are seeing a number of specialists or services. Your GP can refer you to a paediatrician and other medical specialists.
When your child’s hearing loss is first identified you will be referred to Australian Hearing for further hearing tests. The audiologist will discuss the best way to manage your child’s hearing loss with you. You will also receive a copy of ‘Choices’ from Australian Hearing, which includes a booklet with information about the various early intervention programs offered in your state.
The team at the early intervention service you choose should work together with you to identify and deliver the support and services that is important for your child and family. They will play an important role in helping you to support your child.
Australian Association for Families of Children with a Disability - a non-profit, community organisation run by families, for all families who have a child with any type of disability
MyTime groups provide local support for parents and carers of young children under school age with a disability or chronic medical condition who are eligible to receive the Carer Allowance (Child).
Through the Maze – A Guide to benefits and Services for Families of Children with a Disability (NSW version)
Through the Maze – A Guide to benefits and Services for Families of Children with a Disability (Victoria)
There’s No Such Thing As A Silly Question – A practical guide for families living with a child with chronic illness, disability, mental illness or a life-threatening condition. http://www.arthritisvic.org.au/downloads/No%20silly%20question.pdf
Information supplied by the National Deaf Children's Society
Reproduced with permission.
Date reviewed: 27.1.2009
Disclaimer: This website is for general information only and is not intended as a substitute for independent professional advice.