By Wayne Johnson, Coordinator of Client Services, DHHSC-Central Coast Outreach Office
We often see parents who believe that because their children are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, they can’t do certain things for themselves that they are in fact able to do. This often leads to the children becoming unable to expand their independent living skills when they are restricted from doing things they are able to do or participating in making important decisions about their lives.
We have seen Deaf and Hard of Hearing children being unable to take advantage of wonderful opportunities offered to them, because their parents felt the children were not able to do things by themselves. Quite often a Deaf or Hard of Hearing child is able to do much more than than they are given a chance to do.
Example: Your child goes to the doctor’s office. You accompany them in order to communicate with the doctor and, because of this, your child is left out of the process of communicating with the doctor. We have had cases where parents insist on going to medical appointments with their children when they are in their twenties and thirties. The parents insist on communicating with the doctor because they don’t think their now adult children can, or they feel they will have to pay for an interpreter themselves. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires medical service providers and other service providers to communicate effectively with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing without charging the clients or their parents for the accommodation. Do not relinquish your duty to make sure your children are getting the best service possible, but also please don’t prevent them from being involved and communicating directly with the doctor or other service providers. They may be able to explain symptoms and situations better than you are able, because they are the ones experiencing it. How are your children going to learn to go to the doctor or other service providers as an adult when you are not there, unless they gain experience now?
We have had parents come in and say that their children, now in their twenties and thirties, are too dependent. Parents need to let these children gain experience so they are not dependent on the parents or others as they grow older. It is hard for all parents to let their children sometimes stretch their wings and do things on their own. This is normal. However, avoid assuming that because these children are Deaf or Hard of Hearing that they are not able to do things for themselves. That is the type of thinking that will make it more difficult for them to accomplish tasks they need to be able to do independently.
Learning to communicate with children is a VERY important step in this process. We have seen how parents with limited communication with their children misunderstand their children’s needs and abilities.
If you have a Deaf or Hard of Hearing child, ask your nearest DHHSC office about our “Reaching Out and Communicating with our Kids” (ROCK) program. ROCK provides free of charge American Sign Language (ASL) instruction to hearing families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. If your child is an adult, look into our ASL classes for the general public. You will get to know your child much better by learning their language.