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Getting started with early intervention

Newborn babyEarly intervention begins soon after your baby has been diagnosed with hearing loss.

Early intervention services can help you understand hearing loss and gain confidence as a parent of a deaf child. It also will guide you in identifying your child's strengths and needs and help your child develop important language skills necessary to become part of the larger community.

Two main goals of early intervention

Goal # 1 is to help the baby with a hearing loss learn to communicate, to use any available hearing and to interact socially.
All children learn skills best at certain ages. During these "sensitive periods," your baby's brain is ready to learn. If these opportunities for learning are missed, it will be more difficult to learn the skills later on.

Goal # 2 is to help your baby become a fully participating member of the family.
Everyone in the family is important to your baby's development, especially in developing language and social skills. For example, you'll want your baby to know what your family talks about at mealtimes and what big brother and sister did at school. And, like all other young children, you'll want your baby to understand where you're going when you get into the car, when it's time to go to bed and when it's time to play, who Big Ted and the Wiggles are and what they talk about.

Helping children with a hearing loss is often different from helping other children needing special education. The professionals working at your early intervention service have special training to give you and your baby access to language. They know about hearing aids, cochlear implants and audiograms. They can help parents turn their home into a good listening environment. They know about the different types of sign language communication. They can recognise the cues our children give us about their best way of communicating and different ways for parents and children to communicate. Dad feeding baby

Early intervention professionals understand the emotions of parents who are trying to make difficult decisions about their children's communication. For example, they can help parents meet deaf or hard of hearing adults, and involve these individuals in our children's development. They understand how hearing loss can influence the development of intelligible speech in children with a hearing loss, and those professionals who are assigned to children who sign will be skilled in visual (sign) communication and can help the whole family learn. They can keep track of our children's language progress and help us to understand what is happening.

Early intervention involves a multidisciplinary approach. You and your family are core members of your child's support team.  You are an important part of a team of professionals which may include an audiologist, Teacher of the Deaf, speech pathologist, doctor, social worker and educational psychologist.

Early intervention professionals know ways to help your baby develop some skills at the same age that hearing children do. They may help your child listen with hearing aids or a cochlear implant. They will also show you how to give your baby chances to look at your face for gestures and signs so your baby can understand the language you use to communicate about everyday life. They will help you feel confident when you play with your baby and respond to things your baby finds interesting.

Your early intervention service has trained professionals who have knowledge about hearing loss and its effect on a child's communication development. The primary goal of early intervention is to help you communicate with your child and encourage his or her development. Your Early Intervention service will work closely with you to identify your needs and set priorities for your baby, help you locate resources, and answer your questions.

When to Start Early Intervention

The answer to the question "When?" is "Now!" The earlier a baby starts to listen and the earlier there is language in the baby's environment, the sooner language, speech, and listening can develop. You might wonder why services are needed for a young infant. Babies' brain development benefits from early stimulation and parents benefit from the support early intervention provides.

Ongoing assessment

When we assess babies, we don't ask them to take tests. Early intervention professionals observe your baby, and ask you about signs of development, and help you look for progress. Together you look for growing eye contact and use of gestures from your baby in baby with hearing aidsresponse to your voice and/or signs. There are checklists of developmental milestones that you can update every week, or every month, or every few months. There are games that they play that are really tests of your baby's growth and development. This is called ongoing assessment.

Babies change so rapidly in their first months and years that we cannot wait a year to see if they are making progress. This is why we do ongoing assessments. We need to describe the changes every day. At the beginning of early intervention, one of the most important results of assessment is information about how your baby likes to learn and communicate. Many babies respond well to hearing aids and/or cochlear implants and are able to learn clearly by listening; other babies learn just as fast through their eyes. If we pay attention to what they do, and how they respond to us, we will know how to encourage their communication. That decision is very important, and it needs to be based on ongoing assessment. Later, as we continue to observe, we can make new decisions based on new information.

Early intervention services

Early intervention services are offered by both government and non-government organisations. Some early intervention services may not be able to support all methods of communication. It is a good idea to visit more than one early intervention service before deciding which one might suit your child and family. Find out from other families why they have chosen a particular service. Be open to advice, but also trust your own instinct and judgment. A number of early intervention services are now offering outreach services to rural and remote families.

Queensland families

One of the services available to families in Queensland, is the Queensland Hearing Loss Family Support Service (QHLFSS). Their Family Support Facilitators (FSFs) can help you to find information about early intervention services.

Contact Queensland Hearing Loss Family Support Service.
Phone: 1800 352 075

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Further reading

Information supplied by:
Boys Town National Research Hospital and
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). 
Reproduced with permission. logo


Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is not intended as a substitute for independent professional advice.

09-Nov-2015 7:33 AM (AEST)