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.

Question from From Michigan

I have a Deaf son who is 6 years old and attends a school for the deaf. He is having some behavior problems at school, and I recently found out that he may have ADHD. I would like to know about any schools for the deaf and have great staff and who are trained to work with deaf children who have ADHD – I am willing to relocate if necessary. In any case, I am need in some advice on how to raise a deaf child with ADHD.

Question from From Michigan. Posted June 25, 2009.
Response from Patrick Brice - Gallaudet University

I can’t recommend a particular school that does best with deaf children with ADHD. Many schools for deaf children as well as public school or mainstream programs are able to provide an educational environment that is supportive and effective. It may be better first to be sure that you’ve had a good meeting with the people or person who diagnosed the child. In the email, it is said that he “may have ADHD.” It is not simple to diagnose a child with ADHD, and deaf children may be more difficult to diagnose since some behaviors are culturally acceptable, such as waving hands to get attention, or getting up out of a desk or chair to do something. Also, other difficulties, such as anxiety in children, can look like ADHD, as can allergies or side effects of medicines. If the child hasn’t had a good thorough evaluation for ADHD, that should be done. That could be done through the school system.

If the diagnosis has been made already, then have a good long conversation with the person who made the diagnosis to find out your son’s strengths and weaknesses. What sort of ADHD does he have (primarily inattentive, primarily hyperactive, or combined)? How long can he attend? Under what circumstances? The person who did the diagnosis should have ideas on how to help. Most children with ADHD need much more structure in school, rewards and punishments doled out more promptly and/or more frequently, more support around organizing their activities and their work, and support in learning to think before they act or respond. The school psychologist should be able to provide some guidance with this and help the teacher develop a program that is good for your son. There isn’t much written for parents and families of deaf children with ADHD, though the following website can be very helpful and has suggested resources: http://deafness.about.com/cs/add/a/deafadhd.htm.

Maybe the most important thing to keep in mind is that the child is not trying to be disobedient. He just doesn’t have the resources needed to cope with the demands of that particular environment at that particular time. It’s the job of the adults to help him develop those skills, and that can be done.