Parent Strategies for Child Care Inclusion

By Sara Kennedy

The following is a list of strategies to enhance the childcare environment for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Educate:   Teach the staff about hearing loss.  Some parents have created handouts for staff regarding their child's unique needs, a description of hearing aids or other equipment used, and shared resources about communication.   This might include tips about getting close to your child for communicating, facing the child, explaining transitions to the child before they are announced to the larger group, etc.  The MENUS training materials would also be helpful.  (See article in this issue)

Inspire:   Invite members of the Deaf/HH Adult Role Model Team into your child care center to speak.  These adults can share valuable information and provide insight into your child's interactions in child care. (See article on role models in this issue) 

Model:   Show the staff how your child communicates.  Remember that many adults have never met a deaf or hard of hearing person before.  For a beginning, show the staff how to get your child's attention and to explain this to the other children.   Invite caregivers and interested parents to sign classes or other events.

Reduce noise:   Create an environment conducive to learning:  background noise is ubiquitous in our world.  Show the staff that reducing the noise during learning times can improve everyone's attention and comprehension skills.  Show them how the carpeted room is easier to hear in for circle time, etc. Wall coverings and draperies also absorb sound.

Make a friend:  If there is one person on staff who really seems interested in hearing loss and communicating with your child, get a relationship going with them.  That staff person might be the key to fostering a nurturing environment for your child.  Also, take the time to invite children from the child care to your home to slowly create a circle of peers who can communicate with your child. (learning by doing)

Utilize technology:   Teach the staff about closed captioning as a benefit for all children as exposure to written language.  Introduce an FM system if appropriate.  If your child can utilize headphones with hearing aids, share that with staff.

Make an emergency plan:  The center or family day care will have to accommodate your child so that they are aware of how to respond in an emergency:  fire, extreme weather, etc.  This might include changes in equipment such as fire alarms.

Additional Resources: Bednarczyk, A.M., H. Alexander-Whiting, and G.A. Solit. (1993). Guidelines for the adaptation of preschool environments to integrate deaf, hearing of hearing, and hearing children. Children's Environments 11(1): 6-15.

Solit, G. (1990). Deaf and hearing children together: A cooperative approach to child care. Perspectives in Education and Deafness 8: 2-6. :  A website from the National Network for Child Care with resources for all kinds of child care situations.

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