This post continues the piece, Including Deaf Children At Preschool (Part One). A key question was put to the mum & creche manager: How did you identify the potential challenges you (mum & creche) might meet during Charlie’s early days?
NOTE: Charlie was late detected at around age two, unlike today’s infants who benefit from newborn hearing tests. Infants potentially now get a headstart on spoken language from accessing language by wearing hearing-devices from 3 months onwards.
Once Charlie’s deafness was confirmed, we understood that communication methods had to be adjusted, before his cochlear implant (CI).
Charlie didn’t hear commands like the others, or hear songs or rhymes that are so important at that age. He also didn’t respond to adults like the other kids, as he didn’t realise someone was talking to him unless he could see their face.
We were assigned a visiting teacher for the deaf who introduced us and the creche to different ways of communication.
These included – being very visual, using simple signs (we did a Lamh course) and being tactile, as in touching him to get his attention – before his cochlear implant. It was hard to identify potential challenges then, as we had no idea what being deaf meant – we didn’t realise early on, that he couldn’t hear and so probably assumed he could hear us if we shouted enough. As time went by and we met more professionals and got a definite diagnosis, we started to understand what profound deafness meant and how to communicate.
(The Creche Manager)
From an early age we did notice Charlie was not responding to our voices in comparison to other children his age and we also knew from his mum that extra support might be needed.
Since Charlie was the first child we had in the creche with deafness, we had no experience with the situation.
To be honest we acted on instinct and common sense in the beginning. After meeting the visiting teacher for the deaf we learned about different ways to communicate with Charlie and him with us.
We also did a very useful Lamh course to learn the signs and understand how the child may be feeling. We did a course on special needs which we did not find helpful at all. What we realised was that all staff members needed to learn to communicate with Charlie as he would meet several members of staff during the day.
The other children also needed to learn to face Charlie when they were speaking to him, or touch his arm to get his attention.