1. I just found out my child has a hearing loss, what do I do?
If you suspect your child has a hearing loss but it has not been formally diagnosed by an audiologist, it is very important to do so along with an examination by an Ear, Nose, & Throat (ENT) doctor. These two specialists are the most qualified to test your child’s hearing and see if there is a medical reason for the hearing loss. Once a diagnosis has been made you will probably encounter all kinds of new words and information. Depending on the type of hearing loss, the age of onset, and the degree of loss your child may be fitted for amplification and be referred for some kind of special services or therapy. You will want to begin thinking about how the hearing loss affects your child’s communication and overall development. Specialists who can help you with all this information will be Deaf Education Teachers, Audiologists, Speech and Language Pathologists, and possibly a Child Development Specialist. Brain research has shown us that the first few years of a child’s life are critical for their language development. Now is the time to pay close attention to how your child will learn to communicate and develop normal language skills. Remember, language and speech do not always develop at the same time. A child must have language first to communicate whether it is through signing, speaking or a combination of both.
2. What options do I have?
You may hear of so many options that your first reaction may be one of panic. But don’t panic! Learn about each option and try out the ones that fit your child and your family.
Communication options may include:
- American Sign Language (ASL)- ASL is the native language of the American Deaf community. ASL is a visual, vivid language that uses more than just handshapes and placement; facial expressions and body movement are also essential components of ASL (SKI-HI Curriculum). Those who use it feel that at is the most accessible language to those who are deaf and provides a complete language base to students (TSHA).
- Manually Coded English (MCE) and Simultaneous Communication In Simultaneous Communication, English is represented through a combination of spoken English and sign language. What is said is signed so that the child is exposed to English in easy to perceive ways (SKI-HI). There are many varieties of Manually Coded English, but most tend to use ASL vocabulary and English grammar (TSHA).
- Oralism/Auditory-Oral/Auditory-Verbal These methods refer to some of the spoken language methods that rely on the remaining hearing, amplification, and speech reading. Sign language and gestures are usually discouraged. The child will be doing as much as possible to develop his listening, speech, and language skills.
- Cued Speech Similar to oralism, cued speech encourages speech and speech reading. However, it also uses a series of hand shapes to aid in clarifying sounds (TSHA).
- You will also have options for schooling, such as state residential schools and day schools, both public and private. Your child may attend classes with other children with hearing loss or may be included in regular hearing classes with or without special supports. Many of these decisions will depend on how much hearing loss your child has and what methods of communication your child uses.
3. Should I wait until my child is older to think about what to do?
You are encouraged to NOT think that waiting is one of your options. As stated earlier, brain research has proven that the critical period for the brain to develop language is in the first three years of life. It is very important to begin intervention as soon as possible. While you may not make final decisions regarding types of amplification or communication methods for some time, there are many ways to begin intervention and give your child the greatest possibly opportunity for normal language development.
4. How will Happy hands help my child?
Happy Hands is designed especially for the child with hearing loss from birth through kindergarten, those critical early years. Happy Hands provides a program that gives the child full access to language by using sign language (both ASL and English), speech, speech reading, and auditory training. It is our intent to provide the child and the family with a means to communicate first and also evaluate which communication method best suits the child and family. While sign language is used throughout most of our day and in group situations, children also receive one on one teaching from the deaf educator and individual sessions with the speech and language pathologist. Hearing children who have a deaf sibling or a deaf parent are included in the program at Happy Hands. Therefore, the child with hearing loss has the benefit of typically developing peers as language and speech models.
5. What programs/services does Happy Hands offer?
- Happy Hands provides an accredited infant, preschool and kindergarten program along with child care services all in a Christian environment.
- Children with hearing loss and communication disorders see the speech and language pathologist individually and in the classroom.
- Parent classes are offered.
- Fellowship opportunities are planned throughout the year.
6. What about ASL vs English?
For the child whose family chooses ASL as the primary mode of communication, English is taught as a second language. ASL is the preferred and native language of the deaf community, but the choice of ASL or any other communication method rests with the parents of the child in those early years. At Happy Hands we strive to look at each child individually and determine what their specific needs are and how to best meet those needs. Typically a child at Happy Hands will be exposed to ASL, Simultaneous Communication and Oral communication at different times each day.
7. I want my child to learn to speak, do you provide speech services?
Happy Hands provides services from a licensed speech and language pathologist (SLP) to every child with a hearing loss. The SLP works on language development and speech development. In addition to individual therapy, the SLP works closely with the Deaf Education teacher to help the child develop their speech and language skills in the natural environment of the classroom. Deaf Education teachers are also trained to provide speech and language instruction within the classroom.
8. What about Cochlear Implants?
Cochlear Implants are a wonderful advancement in technology for amplification for people with hearing loss. Cochlear Implants are not a cure for deafness and not all those with hearing loss are candidates for a cochlear implant. For those children who have a cochlear implant Happy Hands works hard to provide the auditory training necessary for auditory development. Our philosophy is that the child with the cochlear implant will still benefit from deaf culture and sign language, but we recognize that auditory training is vital to the success of the cochlear implant.
Visit our links page for more information.
9. How do I find out more about enrollment at Happy Hands?
Happy Hands enrolls children from 6 weeks through their kindergarten year of school. Enrollment usually begins with a phone call and a tour with the Program Director.
It is helpful to have a copy of the child’s audiogram (hearing test) at the time of inquiry.
Happy Hands is open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily and year-round. Office hours are typically 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
10. How do I know that Happy Hands is being a good steward of my donations?
At Happy Hands, we submit to review and oversight from third-party organizations to ensure we are legally and ethically compliant as well as current on best practices in the areas of fundraising. We are members of Guidestar, a leading non-profit organization, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which hold us to the highest standards of fundraising and event planning. We have a commitment to you, the donor, with our Donors Bill of Rights which outline the respect and regard with which you will be treated, and give you a name and phone number to ask any questions or report any fundraising concerns you may have.
11. I want to learn sign language. Does Happy Hands teach sign language?
Every other year or so, Happy Hands will offer a sign language course designed for the families of deaf children. We often refer families to TSHA as well for sign language courses.
12. Is Happy Hands licensed or accredited?
Happy Hands is accredited as a private school by the Association of Christian Schools International which is accepted by the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Happy Hands is also licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services as a Three Star Child Care facility. (the highest rating a child care facility can receive in Oklahoma.)
13. I want to be involved. How do I get involved with Happy Hands and all you are doing?
CALL US! We are always in need of classroom volunteers, lunch volunteers, event/fundraising volunteers, prayer partners, financial partners… We’d love to have you!