Remember that children with hearing disabilities are not all alike. Some children may be able to hear a little; others may not have any hearing. Some children may use hearing aids to amplify sounds. Many children may be learning to read lips or may use sign language to communicate. Child care providers will need to adapt to the individual abilities and needs of different children with hearing disabilities.
How child care providers can support language development in children with hearing disabilities
Language is an essential skill for all children. Whether they learn to speak, use sign language or combine the two, children with hearing disabilities can develop important language skills with practice. Setting up activities that encourage verbal communication and listening skills, such as an inviting dramatic play area, is a great way to help children with hearing disabilities be exposed to language in a natural setting. Child care providers should encourage children with hearing disabilities to participate in the activities along with typically developing children and balance language-rich activities with activities that require very little verbal interaction. Art activities, puzzles, block play and sensory activities such as playing with sand and water offer opportunities for satisfying and enjoyable play without heavy demands on language or communication.
Specific adaptations child care providers can make for children with hearing disabilities
Here are some ways child care providers can help children with hearing challenges participate fully in the child care program.
- Cut down on background noise. Turn off music and choose a quiet place for activities that require the child with a hearing disability to listen and communicate.
- Absorb sound. Use carpets, drapes, pillows and other soft material to absorb excess sound. Avoid hard floors or break them up with rugs.
- Provide visual cues. When talking to a child with a hearing disability, make eye contact before you start to speak. A gentle tap on the shoulder usually will get a child’s attention. Look at the child while you are talking and encourage her to watch your lips.
- Talk in a normal voice. Yelling will not necessarily help the child hear you and may embarrass him. Use gestures and facial expressions to clarify your message.
- Use pictures. Label shelves with a picture of toys to make cleanup easier. Post pictures to show hand washing steps or steps of a recipe during cooking activities.
- Adapt learning activities to include children with hearing disabilities.Provide earphones for children to listen to stories and music at a higher volume.
- Teach children how to interact with children with hearing disabilities. Talk about how to treat people with hearing disabilities with respect. Teach children to look at the child when they are talking. Show them how to use gestures along with language to communicate. Introduce sign language as another way to communicate. Encourage children to find creative ways to play with the child with a hearing disability.
- Encourage a child who doesn’t hear well to talk about what he or she is doing. Use who, what, where, why or how questions to encourage them to describe their activities and the materials they encounter.
- Use stories, songs and finger plays to increase language skills. Read the same stories over and over and encourage children to join in refrains or repeated lines. Practice favorite rhymes and songs over and over to encourage confidence and improve learning.
For More Information
For more information on supporting children with hearing disabilities in a child care program, check out the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care section on Child Care for Children with Special Needs, or take a look at the following articles:
- Adapting the Child Care Environment for Children with Special Needs
- Hearing Disabilities: Signs of Concern
- What Is Inclusive Child Care?