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 K.M., England

I have a son who is 3 1/2 years old. We found out this year that he is profoundly deaf in his right ear and has a moderate to severe loss in his left. He has a hearing aid in his left ear. He has hardly got any speech, his balance is very poor, and I’ve been told he’s a year behind for his age. Since he has got older, he has started to get very angry – kicking, biting, hitting, and throwing things at me; sometimes he hits his head on the floor. I’m getting worried. Do you think he could be autistic as well as being deaf? It really is starting to worry me. My paediatrician has said that it’s all frustration. I don’t go out with him because of the looks I get off of other people and because he has no sense of danger.

Question from K.M., England. Posted December 9, 2012.
Response from Cathy Chovaz - King's College, University of Western Ontario

When children don’t have language yet they express their needs or wants through their behaviour. In terms of your son, the paediatrician might be right that he is frustrated. But knowing that won’t just stop the behaviour. Your son should be assessed to determine if his hearing aids are giving him the best amplification and. even more importantly, your son needs to have language in the most accessible modality.  If an oral approach is not working, do not waste time! Begin using a more accessible language like sign language. In addition, your son should see a clinical psychologist familiar with deafness to assess if there are other issues that need to be addressed.