Early Beginnings for Families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children: Introduction
Full paper in PDF format (25 pages, 311KB)
Early identification of a hearing loss means an earlier start for young children with a hearing loss and their families. Families with infants whose hearing loss is identified through a newborn hearing screening program are able to make the most of their babies' first months of life by providing an optimal foundation for language, cognition, and social-emotional development. Researchers have found that when a hearing loss is identified early and families receive excellent intervention services by qualified providers by one year of age, these children attain language skills comparable to their hearing peers by the time they are five years old (Yoshinaga-Itano, Sedey, Coulter, & Mehl, 1998; Moeller, 2000). In fact, the benefits of early identification and early intervention have exceeded many people's expectations and have positively changed the outlook for children with a hearing loss and their families.
Appropriate early intervention provides families with the information and support they need to maximize their child's overall development. Families participating in early intervention, with the help of professionals, identify services that they believe will benefit their children and themselves. Early intervention offers specialized services by qualified professionals, that are provided in a manner that is compatible with the family's concerns and priorities.
Only a few years ago, early identification for all children with a hearing loss was still a dream. Now the number of families with infants seeking early intervention services has increased dramatically, creating a demand for the programs that are available. This increase is the result of aggressive efforts to implement newborn hearing screening programs throughout the country (Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, 2000). For example, newborn hearing screening has reduced the average age of identification nationally from 2.5 years to 2-3 months in Colorado. Currently all but four states have adopted plans to screen newborns for hearing loss and follow up with those families whose infants are referred for further evaluation and assessment.
Because of the limited number of professionals with expertise in working with infants with a hearing loss, professionals with limited knowledge often assume the responsibilities of providing services to families. Professionals and families, faced with an overwhelming amount of information and sometimes conflicting opinions, may find it difficult to separate myths about hearing loss and early intervention from facts. Several myths and facts are presented in this document, along with implications for the best start for young children with a hearing loss and their families. Regardless of the hopes of the parents or future medical interventions, early intervention and appropriate services are vital. This paper does not address medical options or the use of hearing devices.
How this Document is Organized:
How Can You Use this Document?Section 1: What is the Purpose of Early Intervention?
Section 2: What to Look for in an Early Intervention Program
Family-centered ServicesSection 3: Myths and Facts about Early Identification and Early Intervention
Fact 1: Early identification without early intervention may be detrimental to the family and child.Conclusion
After reading this document, the reader will understand:
The reader can use the information in this document to guide the development of early intervention services and to advocate for the provision of services that are most appropriate for families and their young children.
Marilyn Sass-Lehrer, Ph.D., is a professor of Education at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Sass-Lehrer is also the coordinator of the Family-Centered Early Education's graduate teacher preparation program at Gallaudet. Since 1984, Sass-Lehrer has specialized in preparing professionals to work with young children and their families and has worked with deaf and hard of hearing children and their families in a variety of program settings. Her research and writing address teacher competencies, diversity, family-school partnerships, early intervention, and support for families with deaf and hard of hearing children. Sass-Lehrer is involved in several professional organizations that advocate for programs and services for deaf and hard of hearing children and families. She has written this document for the Gallaudet University Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center.
Special thanks to Arlene Stredler Brown, Jackie Busa, Marilyn Farmer, Margaret Hallau, Suzan Hamill, Mary Koch, Debra Nussbaum, Leslie Page, Barbara Raimondo, and Gail Solit for reviewing this document.
Early Beginnings Topic List