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help me please, deaf parents!

(24 Posts)
hearingmum Sat 15-Nov-14 22:00:48

Just wondering if there are any parents on this board who are deaf / have hearing loss / wear hearing aids? I'm after advice on how best to support my hearing-impaired baby as he grows (having normal range hearing myself). Any tips, dos and don'ts, etc, would be really appreciated. Thanks!

AdoraDreams Wed 19-Nov-14 04:19:29

hiya. I'm not deaf, but I am autistic and so often lose the ability to communicate verbally, which means my family and I use sign language to interact. what we've done since birth with our son is when I can speak, I speak and sign to him at the same time (my partner does this also), and when I can't, I just sign. it's worked quite well - he recognises the word "hiya" and that a wave goes with it, and a few others. sorry for replying with my limited experience, just thought it might be helpful.

I'd recommend finding a book of baby sign - it's slightly different and simpler than BSL. there's a great one by Let's Sign on Amazon for about £7.

OohOod Sat 22-Nov-14 22:06:29

Have you had any contact with NDCS? They've newly diagnosed weekends and events

Adarajames Sat 22-Nov-14 22:12:41

I second the contacting NDCS, great people who can give loads of advice and info. Learning to sign is a great thing to do, get the accessible communication going as soon as you can smile

hearingmum Sun 23-Nov-14 12:02:57

Thanks for all your replies! Yes, we are going on a newly diagnosed weekend in the new year. I will look up that book on Amazon - thanks, AdoraDreams.

Marlinspike Sun 23-Nov-14 12:06:36

Also check out The Ear Foundation for useful information and advice.

Marlinspike Sun 23-Nov-14 12:07:24

Sorry, should have posted a link to their website.

hearingmum Sun 23-Nov-14 12:12:16

Thanks, Marlinspike, had not heard of them. Have just ordered that book, AdoraDreams!

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Sun 23-Nov-14 12:20:03

Learning sign language is definately a good place to start. A level 1, and level 2 course will make a huge difference. Also then using sign language at home between hearing people as well as English - treating your son as potentially growing up bilingual with his 'natural' instinctive language likely to be SL.

Have a look at Forest books for both materials for learning BSL and for books to and gifts your son might enjoy as he grows up.
Find out about local Deaf clubs, societies and charities (the British Deaf Association used to have a list, and the RNID and RDA.)

YouAreMyRain Sun 23-Nov-14 12:28:30

At this stage, try and treat him as you would if he was fully hearing. Still talk to him and interact with him much as (maybe even more than) you would with a hearing child, even if you think he can't hear you, he will be learning how conversations work, picking up on facial expression and normal social interaction. These are vital as they lay the building blocks of language development. If you add in some signing then even better!

hearingmum Sun 23-Nov-14 21:02:24

Thanks!...interesting that your respective advice differs slightly, YeGodsAndLittleFishes and YouAreMyRain...or is that just my reading of it?

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Sun 23-Nov-14 21:23:13

There is a bit of a difference, in that I'd say to consider a future where you use 2 distinct languages, not to labour on just English with a few baby signs thrown in. Don't discourage either...communication is the main thing.

YouAreMyRain Sun 23-Nov-14 23:15:03

I agree with yegods, my advice re talking and using a few signs was in the short term.

hearingmum Mon 24-Nov-14 07:06:04

Okay, thank you!

Another question...I've only ever had success with languages when I've been immersed with I'd really like to find some adult native signers to develop my language. Not having any success locally so far...does anyone have any ideas on this?

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Mon 24-Nov-14 07:52:29

Start with a level 1 class. Once you have passed, you will have a very basic level of language and then you can make more of the time spent at a deaf club if you need to travel to get to them.

OohOod Mon 24-Nov-14 12:32:06

Yes BSL level one plus getting to know what's available locally.
Where are you? Maybe one of us can point you?

NoNoNoooooo Mon 24-Nov-14 12:42:47

Facebook has some great BSL pages, and some of the group members do Skype calls to practice.

Wolfbasher Mon 24-Nov-14 12:44:05

How severe is your baby's hearing impairment? Mild? Moderate? Severe? Profound? Will he need to use sign language to communicate as an adult or will he wear hearing aids and talk?

hearingmum Mon 24-Nov-14 16:33:40

It's moderate. He currently has a bone conductor, and may have a BAHA or other surgical aid when older. We hope he will wear hearing aids and talk, and are currently doing baby signing, but not full BSL (obv as I haven't learned it yet!) we want to be ready for contingencies, though, and also to be able to communicate and to help him to communicate with other deaf people. We're in London, so thanks for any pointers around here. Just looking up level 1 courses...

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Mon 24-Nov-14 17:18:45

City Lit used to be good for BSL courses in London. There are various deaf clubs. I used to go to signed carols around Christmas, then the pub!
See Hear on BBC can have some useful information. You can also find children's TV with a signing interpreter on screen being aired late at night (as well as a lot of other shows).

You will find people through other people, as you mix more and more. I used to volunteer for a deaf run charity for families in Guildford. Sure there must be some in London, you find them through asking face to face. smile

YouAreMyRain Mon 24-Nov-14 18:34:24

You sound so lovely and supportive, OP. Most local authorities provide free level one BSL classes for parents of deaf children, sometimes you get free travel and childcare too (probably harder to access with budget cuts etc) your son should have a designated teacher of the deaf who you can ask too.

Even if he grows up with his main method of communication being hearing aids and talking, he will still be deaf/HI, if his aids break or he's swimming or in the shower or rain etc it will be useful to sign too. Also he will be able to communicate with his deaf peers and more fully accepted by the deaf community.

Wolfbasher Tue 25-Nov-14 09:38:52

Yes I agree with the PP that it's great to see a parent being so constructive and pro-active.

I have a moderate-to-severe hearing loss (severe across the most of the 'human speech' frequencies). I've worn hearing aids since the age of 3, and use speech to communicate. Most people have no idea that I have a hearing loss. If your son has a moderate loss, and no other problems that might affect communication then I am certain that he will have no issues with using hearing aids/speech.

However, I still think it's nice to use some sign language as well. I didn't, and often wish that I knew some, just to be able to speak to some profoundly deaf people I have met over the years. Remember though, that proper BSL is nothing like the kind of baby signing you learn in classes. It's another language, a full, complete language with its own syntax and grammar - everything. (Not a signed translation of English). Trying to teach it to your son when you are not native speakers yourselves, would be like you trying to teach him Mandarin by going to some classes and using the few bits and pieces you learn at home.

Your son, though, is at the 'language learning' age and would be able to pick up BSL from native speakers very quickly and naturally. So, if you would like him to learn it, then I think you need to find a place (a deaf club / children's classes / another family with deaf parents - perhaps one with a hearing child, so that you could offer the child the same 'native speaker' service in return!) where he can spend time.

There is a great book by Oliver Sacks called 'Seeing Voices' that describes what is so different and amazing about sign language. It's a captivating read, and quite short.

My tips, from being a hearing-impaired child with hearing parents:-

- understand that your child will experience frustration at times, and that may well spill over into bad temper. (I'm over 40, and I still get the 'anxiety' dream I've had all my life where I am speaking and no-one hears me - seems back-to-front, but I think it's about communication frustrations generally)

- understand that your child will get very tired from having to concentrate harder than others in order to function in a hearing environment. I used to come home from school, go up to my bedroom and take my hearing aids off - just spend an hour or so in quietness.

- try to avoid too much sound-overload. I have always hated TV on in the background (it's just annoying noise). I used to dislike my mum having Radio 4 on in the mornings too (poor mum).

- always, always, always repeat something when your child asks you to. Even if you weren't speaking to them, or if you're in a hurry. It is very isolating to ask and get a 'oh, never mind' back again.

- try to allow your child to choose where they sit. They will naturally come to choose a seat from which they can see people's faces, and where the light is behind them (not glaring at them). I always loathe 'group' meals if I am stuck at the end of the table, as it really limits my ability to join in.

- don't go overboard about the 'deafness', it's not your child's 'identifying factor', just one of his many parts. As he gets older, let him lead the way in when he wants to tell people about it, and how he deals with it. Don't assume that any problem he's having will be 'solved' by his letting other people know that he has a hearing loss, or dealing with it differently.

I am sure you will all handle this very well, it's nice that you are so enthusiastic. So many threads from parents of children with newly diagnosed hearing losses seem to come from a place of total devastation, which always saddens me.

NotCitrus Tue 25-Nov-14 10:14:29

Learning some baby sign and then BSL will really help your baby understand that communication is possible.
Apart from the good advice upthread, ensure you face your baby when talking, and don't have background noise when avoidable, as picking out words out of noise is much more difficult when you have any degree of hearing loss.

City Lit is very good for deaf stuff, though I've not found anywhere for children to learn sign even in London.

hearingmum Tue 25-Nov-14 20:09:30

Ahhrrgg sorry - tried to post earlier today and Mumsnet froze and ate my words! So will try to remember what I said...

Thanks so much for the continued replies - all so useful. Wolfbasher, yours was exactly what I need, and actually made me cry - not sure why! - it's all just a bit overwhelming sometimes, and when people are actually nice and helpful (so many of the medical and support professionals we have to see really are not) it's a shock, but good!

We are definitely not coming from a place of devastation - he's a really lovely baby, with a great interest and joy in life already. We are very lucky to have him. He's our second, so we are under no illusions that things would be easy and straightforward with any child, regardless of whether they have a defined 'condition.' We just want to support him as well as we can to find his way in his life. So the advice and thoughts here are great. Thanks again, everyone.

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