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Additional needs – Introduction

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Your deaf child may also be diagnosed with additional needs that require more specialised support.  Some of these conditions may be evident at birth but for many families, the diagnosis of additional needs may be a gradual process over time.

For example, children may have:

  • a physical disability
  • a learning difficulty
  • a speech difficulty
  • an intellectual disability
  • a diagnosed condition such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down Syndrome or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • a health condition such as asthma or epilepsy

Any extra need can be worrying. If you understand the need you can act, find others who have had a similar experience, get advice, start to feel in control again, and enjoy being a family. Sometimes you may feel you know more than the professionals involved, and this can be very frustrating. Parents and professionals both have lots to contribute to any discussion about needs, and how these may best be met for your child. And they both have lots to learn.

It is estimated that up to 40% of all deaf children have some extra health, social or educational need. These needs, known as additional needs, arise as a result of other conditions ranging from asthma, colour blindness and dyslexia to severe learning and physical disabilities. Also, every child has their own personality and learning style. They may be someone who watches or someone who joins in, someone who likes lots of activity or someone who is naturally quiet.

For example, a child who has Down syndrome may be seen firstly as having an intellectual disability, secondly as having a hearing loss and thirdly as an outgoing friendly child, rather than being seen as a whole person. All levels and types of deafness affect children differently. You may hear phrases such as “It’s the least of their problems,” or “Given other challenges, we don’t need to worry about hearing.”  It is inappropriate for any professional to decide whether a hearing loss is important to you or your child. If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, your concerns should be taken seriously.

Having a deaf child with additional needs affects you, your partner and your family. However, there are many services, resources and support groups who can guide and assist you along the way and help your child achieve their potential.

Related articles

Further reading

Thank you
We are grateful to Wendy McCracken, Senior Lecturer in Education of the Deaf at the University of Manchester, for providing the content for “Deaf Children with additional needs”. The booklet was compiled for the National Deaf Children’s Society by Wendy McCracken, Senior Lecturer in Education of the Deaf at the University of Manchester and Pauline Walker, Deputy Director of Family Programmes.

Changes to the booklet for Australian parents were prepared by Aussie Deaf Kids.

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Information supplied by the National Deaf Children’s Society. Reproduced with permission.
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