Our daughter, Faith, joined our family several years ago through adoption from China. Faith has been diagnosed with a profound bilateral hearing loss. Faith arrived with no language, unless you count “thumbs up” for positive reactions and the ugliest disgusted face ever seen for negative reactions. So, we chose to teach her American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Within days of having custody, she learned the signs for “potty” and “kiss”. Within her first 10 months with us, she learned over 200 signs and recognized a few written and spoken words.
I grappled with the decision to home school Faith. However, I believe that I felt called to do it and that I would be equipped for it. Our education plan had been to introduce language to Faith, just as I did with my hearing children, by incorporating it naturally into all aspects of her life.
5 Specific Successful Teaching Strategies
Lap Time Stories for Hearing Loss
The best advice I received from others was to read books with Faith! The challenging part of doing so was working out how to sit, read and cuddle. Cuddling afterall is the best part of reading to your child. However, I wasn’t just able to read aloud to her. I had to use ASL to read to her. We came up with two techniques.
Sometimes, Faith would sit on one of my knees. I would do my best to sign with my opposite free hand. I would point to pictures and tell the story best I could through signs, gestures and facial expressions.
At other times, I called in reinforcement (my sons or husband). I let them dole out the cuddle time, while I read aloud. This allowed Faith to see my lips and thus support her learning of lip reading.
Tubbie Time for Hearing Loss
Learning enjoyed is often learning retained. I looked for places where Faith felt the most comfortable and relaxed. I would incorporate these places into learning moments. Her favorite place was the bathtub!
I found vinyl waterproof books to help incorporate literacy into bath time.
I also bought foam letters, which she enjoyed sticking to the side of the tub to learn her name, the ABCs and the beginnings of word families.
Flash Cards for Hearing Loss
I found flashcards for a dollar a pack that met our needs perfectly! These flashcards featured everyday objects. These were perfect because they aligned with what we had been teaching Faith using ASL.
These flashcards would also be colored, which encouraged our daughter to interact with the picture longer. We had been concerned with Faith’s short attention span, so this was really helpful in increasing her time on task.
Teaching American Sign Language is so dependent on eye contact and dedicated exposure. This can be incredibly challenging with an unfocused youngster. The coloring flash cards sure have proved helpful with maintaining her interest.
Sharing Signs for Hearing Loss
Through our flashcard discovery, Faith’s expressive language grew. I began to use index cards to create an additional set of words that she had mastered. This helped us to keep track of how many words she had successfully acquired. In addition, these index cards offered visuals for written language.
Index cards provided us with a communication tool! In worrying about how we were going to be able to help others communicate with Faith, we accidentally stumbled upon a solution. These index cards provided our friends and family with the basic tools to comprehend what Faith was expressing. S
We used our homemade vocabulary flashcards for teaching family and friends how to communicate using ASL. By keeping track of the words Faith knew and mastering them along with her, our family and others in Faith’s life were ensured smoother communication.
Technology and Hearing Loss
Along with low-tech flashcards, I have been very blessed to find wonderful higher-tech ones such as computer resources, software programs, children’s television shows, and many online resources.
The software program is called ASL Tales and Games for Kids. I loved that it was more than a sign language teaching program. In addition to ASL, it focuses on English literacy skills. The software programs include stories, games, and even math skills!
As far as TV goes, many children’s programming offers closed captioning. However, until Faith could read, closed captioning was of little benefit to her. Lucky for us, a friend discovered Dr. Wonder’s Workshop, a program that could not have been more perfect for our family. The cast is completely deaf. The entire show is signed with ASL. It even includes narration for hearing children. This resource is well rounded – teaching morals, deaf culture, signing skills and vocabulary, even ABCs. Although these are no longer available via our Amazon Affiliate, inquire about these through your local library. Another option worthy of exploring is Deaf Planet.