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 D.B., Maryland

My son is 23 and was diagnosed at the age of 13 with a bi-lateral moderate to severe hearing loss. He was able to cope with the loss in middle and high school without the assistance of hearing aids. We later found out he taught himself how to lip read.. In college the loss became more noticeable and emotionally and socially hard for him to accept.. He did not continue his college career or football career somewhat due having to accept the disability. Do you have any suggestions for counseling and/or networking organizations that you can recommend to help him become more educated and socially involved with the hard or hearing/deaf community?

Question from D.B., Maryland. Posted January 8, 2012.
Response from Mark Rosica - NTID

There are a few missing pieces of information that would make this reply more relevant, for example, Was your son late deafened or was the diagnosis just made later in his life? What was the impact on his earlier studies? What is the etiology of his deafness?

You said he was ‘Coping with the loss…w/o the assistance of hearing aids’. This could mean many different things. How did he learn to cope with the loss of his hearing or just the fact that he was different? How did he cope with the frustration of people thinking he had a cognitive impairment instead of a hearing loss?┬áDespite the good efforts to teach himself ‘how to lipread’, I suspect there may have been some gaps in his learning and understanding along the way. If he is like other deaf/hoh students, I am sure he discovered strategies to cover up for the gaps in his learning and to not look ‘stupid’. One can learn to ‘fake it’ when in a learning environment or interacting with others but we still are not getting the information that is being presented.

I suspect that in addition to identity issues and coping with the loss of hearing, his academic challenges continued into college. College is immensely difficult all on its own. Complicate it with the hearing loss and gaps in social and academic knowledge, and you have the potential for significant delays and misunderstanding along the way….not to mention the impact all this has on his sense of self worth and beliefs in what he is capable of learning and doing in life. His decision ‘not to continue his college career’ is quite understandable, given the tremendous loss and learning struggles he must have encountered.

I also might want to point out the difficulties and loss that you, as his parent must be experiencing. Adjusting to this kind of loss of the hopes and dreams all parents have for their children can be daunting, difficult and lengthy. On the other hand, you may be well adjusted and accepting of your son’s situation and are there to offer guidance and stability while he makes his journey through life.

At this point, finding a therapist who can help him deal with his losses and devising coping strategies for navigating through life would be of tremendous help. A counselor or therapist in the high school or maybe even at a local community college that has knowledge of services for deaf/hoh students might be an idea. In addition, it makes sense to get in touch someone from the ‘disability services office’ at a college to assist with discovering which accommodations can be made for him at school, if he decides to return to college. There was a day and time when deaf or hard of hearing students had to ‘make the best’ of the situation w/o interpreters, notetakers, c-print and tutoring, but those days are long gone. Colleges offer a wide variety of services to help students get the information they deserve to be successful in college. Please feel free to contact me via email if you would like more information.