Two recent articles in the Irish press highlighted two essential issues facing families with deaf children in Ireland. These are the need for:
- hearing-aids from as young as possible (under 1 year old), and
- early spoken-language intervention for children with severe to profound deafness
How Does Hearing Lead To Education?
Newcomers to deafness may ask, what is the link with hearing-aids, learning & education? The answer is easy. Hearing-aids + learning = education.
The article, Children Waiting Over Two Years For Hearing-Aids (Examiner, Aug. 3, 2010) outlines the unbelievable failings of state audiology services.
Another article, Children Waiting Up To Five Years For Hearing Aids (Irish Times, April 14, 2011) confirms the neurological emergency for children who did not access hearing-aids or sound in the first five years of their life, and lost their window for developing speech skills.
Priming Childrens’ Brains For Sound And Language
Very young children need hearing-aids to hear sounds in their environment: namely their families’ voices, household noises and traffic sounds for safety.
When a young child receives sounds via hearing-aids, their brain learns to recognise and make sense of sounds around them. This way, the child is best-placed for early spoken language learning at home, before preschool starts.
From Birth, To Age Four
Children learn 75% of their total knowledge in their first four years of life. Deaf infants and children deserve hearing-aids at this stage. Otherwise, their spoken language learning (and formal education) is delayed from their day of birth.
A deaf infant with age-appropriate language, going into preschool and primary school, has the best chance of peer-level attainment. Giving these children a solid start in life benefits the education system in terms of assigning teaching support. The maths is simple. Investment into a deaf child’s early years, will pay off.
For deaf children to get this headstart, the state needs to provide:
- Universal new born hearing screening (UNHS) and early-years tests
- Early intervention (hearing aids + speech therapy) when deafness is confirmed
- A formal support system for families with deaf children
These three things will make a world of difference to a child and their family.
- Early action key to infant hearing loss
- One Parent’s Feedback: National Audiology Review
- National Audiology Review: Another Mum’s Story
- Including Deaf Children At Preschool: Part One
- Schools ‘Must Change Their Attitude To Disability’
- Inclusive Education Is ‘All-Encompassing’ Learning