Support Groups for People with Hearing Loss – Why You Need It, How to Find It – Paula’s Pearls Syndicated Article
August 14, 2009 – 11:51 pm | 54 Comments

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Home » Hearing Aids, Hearing Loss, News, Parenting, Paula's News, Role Models, kids with hearing loss

Finding Support for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Submitted by Paula Rosenthal on March 23, 2009 – 5:11 pm19 Comments

istock_000004280781xsmallSocialization of deaf and hard of hearing children is very important to their personal growth and development. When kids with hearing loss attend special education programs with peers who have hearing loss, they’re surrounded by other children wearing hearing aids, cochlear implants and FM or sound field listening devices. It is an environment where it is easy to fit in and not feel self-conscious.

While some children remain in these types of settings throughout their academic years, others mainstream into public and private schools often with very few, if any, children with hearing loss. Some children transition easily from one environment to another while others do not. One way to assist children (and their parents) with this transition is to find a support group of mainstreamed children with hearing loss. If none is available in your area, you may want to consider starting one. No one understands  what it is like to be deaf or hard of hearing in a sea of students with normal hearing better than other kids with hearing loss. Having a peer support system can be essential to the child’s well-being, especially during the formative tween and teen years.

Where I live on Long Island, we are fortunate that The Children’s Hearing Institute has underwritten the costs of renting a small hotel’s conference room and providing refreshments on a monthly basis for mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing children and their parents. The room is actually divided in half with a dividing wall with the kids on one side and the parents on the other. The kids are supervised by a young woman who is a music therapist. They listen and sing along to popular rock music and spend a lot of time chatting and hanging out with each other. It gives them time to bond with one another and offer direct and indirect means of support. At the same time, the parents sit in the other room with a moderator and discuss issues, ask questions and share experiences.

If you can’t find a support group for children with hearing loss in your area, you can form your own. Network extensively and seek out any families with children with hearing loss within a 30 to 60 minute drive from where you live. Contact your local schools for deaf and hard of hearing children, send emails to pediatricians, otolaryngologists, audiology practices and cochlear implant centers. Call state chapters of AG Bell, HLAA, state associations of the deaf, or any other hearing loss related group. Be sure to contact your state’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program. Search online for local parent organizations, websites and blogs. All of these resources can be helpful both to find families and also to help publicize the meetings on a regular basis.

If you can’t find anyone with kids with hearing loss, then broaden the search to include families with children with various special needs. Even if the child’s disability is different than yours, the children can connect and will have plenty to share about how they are handling things in school and socially as they grow up.

To keep the cost of attending free or low for participating families, consider finding some business or group to underwrite the costs of the meetings. Check with the local Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, etc. A group of parents in our area was generously given use of the local Knights of Columbus space on a regular basis for meetings. Also, local audiology and medical practices or the nearest cochlear implant center may be willing to offer you space and/or financial assistance in return for some publicity. Use connections of the members to assist you in this endeavor.

Support groups for children with hearing loss and their families can be both socially and emotionally valuable for all involved. Making the commitment to find or put together such a group can certainly be time-consuming, but the rewards are tremendous. While not all children need or want the support of kids like them, for the ones who do, your efforts will make an indelible mark on their lives.

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    I think support groups are a great idea although these days it’s sometimes hard to fit more into an already packed schedule. I feel i should have done more when my kids were younger (not that they’re that old yet) to socialize them with other kids who have hearing loss. A sense of belonging can be a powerful thing! I’ve recently started a blog about some of my experiences with children and hearing loss and hope that it can become a way for parents of HOH children to connect. Check it out at http://www.wordymom.com.

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