Early Beginnings for Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
By Marilyn Sass-Lehrer, PhD
Section 1: What is the Purpose of Early Intervention?
Full paper in PDF format (19 pages)
Families who have just learned that their child is deaf or hard of hearing typically have no prior experience or information about what this means for their child and family. Since more than 90 percent of families with a child who is deaf or hard of hearing are themselves hearing, the news often comes as a complete surprise. Although parents react to the identification of their child's limited hearing ability in many different ways, they often need support as they adjust to this new and unexpected information. Parents want to know what they can do to help their child. Early intervention services are designed to provide families with the support and information they need to promote their child's growth and development (Sass-Lehrer, 2011).
Early intervention services may be provided through visits with the family in their home, an early intervention program center, or another community setting. During these sessions, families-with the guidance of professionals-determine the goals and services that are most appropriate for their child and family. A range of services may be provided, such as emotional support for the family, information sharing, and family communication skill development. Family sign language lessons, deaf mentoring, shared reading activities, and listening and spoken language activities may be provided by early intervention services or via collaboration with other agencies. Quality intervention programs employ professionals who have training and experience working with families and their infants and toddlers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Effective programs provide a range of services to families that are family-centered, culturally responsive, and promote partnerships that are based on positive relationships between professionals and family members. Early intervention services are most effective when they are designed to strengthen the families' resources and resolve to provide the best learning opportunities available for their children.