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Information and resources for some additional needs

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

This typically includes lack of concentration, acting on impulse, and hyperactivity. The child will have particular problems with organising and planning. It can be difficult to get ADHD diagnosed in deaf children as behaviour associated with deafness may complicate the diagnosis. A small group of deaf children do have ADHD. On the other hand, some deaf children may be wrongly labelled as having ADHD. It is important to have a specific diagnosis of deafness and ADHD, as this is important in taking the right action. The assessment should be made by a team made up of different professionals. There is no single test for ADHD and a diagnosis can only be made after a range of information is collected, especially from parents. The symptoms must be obvious in most areas of the child’s life. Managing ADHD may involve additional educational support, counselling and medication.

Further information:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) | healthdirect 
Support groups: Australian ADD/ADHD Support Groups | Adders 

Autistic spectrum disorder

This term describes a range of disorders associated with poor understanding of social situations, poor communication skills, repetitive actions and resistance to changes in routines. The range of disorders includes Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) and Rett syndrome. Identifying an autistic spectrum disorder is complex. An assessment is based on observations and practical tests rather than medical investigations. Managing an autistic spectrum disorder may involve a mixture of behaviour management, education, speech pathology, medication and family support.

Information and support: Autism Spectrum Australia 

Cerebral palsy

This condition varies a great deal in the way it affects children. The assessment of a child’s ability to learn may be complicated by a child not being able to respond physically or through speech. Cerebral palsy may also make it more difficult to carry out and interpret hearing tests. It is very important to share information about your child’s hearing and listening behaviour with your child’s Teacher of the Deaf and audiologist. This helps to build a picture of your child’s hearing. It is very important that any child with cerebral palsy has a communication method that is easy to use, easily accessible and allows for development

Information and support:  CP Australia
CP Helpline on 1300 30 29 20.

Down syndrome

Down syndrome is commonly associated with an intellectual disability, although the degree of this varies. Children with Down syndrome often have a hearing loss caused by a build-up of fluid in their middle ear. Like other children with additional needs, special care should be taken when analysing the results of hearing tests. Children with Down syndrome may also have a sensorineural (nerve) deafness. Many have a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. So it important that hearing levels are checked regularly.

As children with Down syndrome have very small ear canals, this must be taken into account when hearing aids are fitted. Real ear measurements (measurements of the actual level of sound from the hearing aid recorded in the ear canal) should be used to make sure the hearing aid is set correctly and is not too loud.

Many children with Down syndrome go to local mainstream schools. The school may have a special class providing more one to one help from a teacher trained in Special Education. If a child with Down Syndrome is placed in a mainstream class, they should have assistance from a teacher aide and Teacher of the Deaf.

Further information and support: Down Syndrome Australia


This is where there is a problem with the muscles that control speech. This is commonly associated with a general condition like cerebral palsy.

Specific learning difficulties

Some children have specific learning difficulties – they have problems in one or more areas of learning, but not in others. A child may find it difficult to understand that words are made of different sounds. A child may also have memory problems that make it hard for them to remember the structure of a sentence long enough for them to understand what it means. Children may find it difficult to solve problems and have a tendency to act on impulse.

Further information and support:  Auspeld

Intellectual disabilities

Intellectual disabilities vary from mild to very severe. They frequently occur with a range of other disabilities. A person with an intellectual disability may learn and process information more slowly; have problems with abstract concepts such as time and money and difficulties understanding the subtleties of social situations and relationships.

Standard hearing tests are based on children at the usual stage of development for their age. Specialist expertise is needed to identify the specific hearing needs and appropriate support for deaf children with an intellectual disability and to monitor their progress. All children are unique, regardless of their IQ, and have their own preferences, abilities, personalities and behaviour. Communication may be very challenging, but it is essential families are given appropriate support from speech pathologists and Teachers of the Deaf to make sure communication is developed.

Information and support: Children and Young People with Disability Australia

Specific speech and language disorders

When children who can hear have a level of language that is well below their general ability, they can be classified as having a ‘specific language disorder’. Language development may also be expected to be delayed if deafness is not diagnosed and managed early on. A language disorder may be thought to be present when a child has specific problems understanding spoken or sign language, or a specific problem using speech or sign, above what may be expected for the level and type of hearing loss. A disorder is difficult to identify without the input of an experienced speech pathologist who specialises in deafness.

Information: Speech Pathology Australia 

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