Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Early Intervention and Preschool

Is it essential to address hearing loss before a child reaches the age of seven years?

Question from W.T., England. Posted March 8, 2011.
Response from Marc Marschark - NTID

Absolutely!! The ideal age for addressing hearing loss (effective parenting techniques, effective exposure to language, consideration of assistive listening devices, etc.) is from birth. Recent research has demonstrated that when deaf children are identified and receive early intervention services within the first six months of life, their language abilities are much more likely to fall within the normal range for hearing children by the time they enter school. Strategies for ensuring effective access to language, supporting social-emotional development, and all of the other issues noted above are essential as early as possible in order to ensure normal development…and providing them after the age at which hearing children are starting to aquire language definitely is not “normal.”

All of that said, “better late than never.” If those early opportunities have been missed, the situation calls for even more vigorous, concerted efforts by all involved.

I am a teacher of the Deaf who works in early intervention, pre-k, as well as school age. Some of my colleagues and I have been discussing how to determine the amount of services a child receives. Is there any standardized way, or at least guidelines that have been developed for this?

Question from J.D., Syracuse. Posted February 17, 2011.

For children birth to 36 months of age, Part C of IDEA assures that each child has access to services.   A description of these services is identified in the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP).  The IFSP is a written plan.  It documents the desired outcomes for the infant or toddler’s development and services to be provided to the child and the child’s family.  The IFSP includes statements of the child’ s present level of development, the family’s resources, as well as their priorities and concerns, the major outcomes expected, a statement of necessary early intervention services, and the frequency of services.

When the IFSP is individualized, as it should be, the frequency of services may change.  Sometimes the frequency of visits decreases (because the child is doing so well) and sometimes it increases.  Frequency of services may increase when there is a significant change (e.g., diagnosis of a second disability, receiving a cochlear implant, progressive hearing loss, etc).  The way the law is written, the frequency of services should be prescriptive.  Unfortunately, it has been difficult to move away from the time-honored perspective of ongoing weekly visits.

Further reading: Stredler-Brown, A. (2009).  Intervention, education, and therapy for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (pp. 934-954).  In J. Katz, L. Medwetsky, R. Burkard, & L. Hood (Eds.), Handbook of Clinical Audiology.  Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.